'They [the studio] didn't expect the story to be as sweet...

Story by Jack Foley

ON-SCREEN chemistry is an integral part of making any movie a success. Hell, it can even make the flimisest of material seem interesting.

Take The Banger Sisters, for example. It's a simple story about two former rock 'n' roll groupies who reunite after years apart and take a look at where their lives have taken them. For one, it isn't very far; for the other, it is a million miles away from the sex-fuelled antics of their heyday.

In the hands of two lesser actresses, it could easily have become a redundant, forgettable tale, yet while shamelessly sentimental at times (and a little preachy), The Banger Sisters remains a light, breezy type of film that is made better by the chemistry of its performers, Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon.

The veteran actresses had only met briefly before agreeing to make the film together, yet now they are close friends, and speaking at a press conference at London's Dorchester Hotel on Tuesday (Jan 29, 2003), they revealed the lengths to which both had gone to ensure the film was a worthwhile experience.

Writer/director, Bob Dolman, allowed Sarandon to contribute to the script for a year and a half before the cameras started rolling, as she explained: "Very often, you get a good character, and a good set up and then you have to really talk about 'what would you be talking about for four days in a junket'?

"You know, why do you want to make this movie, and what are you trying to say. And then you're trying to focus it and so, a lot of that went on, and it was during this time that Goldie and I really got to know each other.

"By the time we started filming, we were friends, and we knew exactly where our aesthetics and work ethics were located and were completely in synch, so we really did have a history."

Indeed, the main attraction of the role for Sarandon was the relationship between the two, given that they are such opposites by the time they reunite.

"It was really hard to pull off someone who is that uptight," she confessed, describing the role of Vinnie, the former groupie turned community stalwart and mother. "And you just hope, going into it, that it's a good foil for the other character."

Suzette, played by Hawn, is certainly the more showy of the two, a mixed-up former bartender, who still has no idea what she is searching for in life.

"She was a fun character, a complicated character, and it's always good to play happy/sad, or to be covering up the truth of your character," she adds. "In fact, I had never played a character quite that up front before."

Indeed, so 'up front' was she, that the actress had to ask Dolman to remove some of the lines that she didn't feel comfortable with, while a lot of work was done on the development of Vinnie's character.

"Frankly, the biggest problem with the script was the plot and that had nothing to do with me," confesses Hawn, "but with Susan and her character. There was a lot of organising around that issue, which is what the movie is really about."

Sarandon adds: "They [the studio] didn't expect the story to be as sweet as that. I think they thought of it on a much broader level and they got some values that they hadn't anticipated from the relationship between the two women; they were actually moved by it, which is something that I was happy with by the end."

The film isn't without its raunchy moments, however, given that it is about two women who were infamous for the number of rock stars' pants they were able to get into and the number of 'cock' pictures they took as a result.

The 'cock' photo scene, for instance (when the women look back on their collection after a drunken night out), is one which provoked a lot of laughter at the press conference, especially when Sarandon confirmed that they had not been expecting to see real pictures of men's penises.

"I mean, the joint wasn't real so why would the other joints be real?" she joked. "So yeah, we were surprised and we wanted to make sure the crew hadn't participated!

"But it [the scene] was so ludicrous, that we just rolled the cameras and started improvising, before we got used to the idea. After about 40 minutes, it wouldn't have been shocking, so we just kind of laughed and got through it."

Aside from the humour, though, the film goes on to explore whether the 'Banger Sisters' are happy with the way their lives have turned out, exposing regrets and missed opportunities along the way. It was little surprise, therefore, that questions turned to the personal lives of the stars - both of whom have been romantically linked to the same people for a number of years.

In Hawn's case, she and Kurt Russell will be celebrating 20 years of being together on February 14, while Sarandon has been with actor/director, Tim Robbins, for 15 years. Neither couple is married.

For Sarandon, this stems from a 'phobia' or 'hang-up' about not being perceived as a unit by people, although she doesn't believe this makes them any less committed, while for Hawn, it comes from a similar desire not to be perceived as a unit. That said, she remains committed to her relationship with Russell and even had a few tips for ensuring longevity.

She said: "People forget to charm each other. You start looking outside of your relationship. But relationships are hard, they can be very troubling sometimes.

"You get to a certain point and, you know, the passion isn't there and your sexuality goes up and down and it happens to everybody. But what does happen, unconsciously, is that you start to seduce everybody else except the person you're with. You stop charming them.

"Kurt and I have talked about this a lot. You know, 'why would I choose to charm someone else and not him?' But when we're finished charming each other, then we're in trouble. So I do charm him, I want him to find me attractive and to like me, and he wants me to like him. It's an intention that helps to keep the relationship spiffy."

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