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Susan Sarandon discusses latest film: the end-of-life drama ‘Blackbird’

At age 73, Susan Sarandon is still a rebel. When COVID-19 hit, she locked down with her children and her inner wild child in upstate New York.

“We assembled at the house where my grown sons, their girlfriends and I, after being tested, spent Sundays and most other nights watching ‘Twin Peaks’ and drinking martinis and then watching ‘Mad Men,’ ” she says. “It’s all about family.”

The ties that bind are on her mind in her new film “Blackbird,” a remake of the 2014 Danish picture “Silent Heart.”

Sarandon stars as Lily, a mother whose terminal illness has summoned three generations of her family home for one last Christmas dinner, including her husband (Sam Neill), adult daughters (Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska) and best friend (Lindsay Duncan). “Blackbird” is out on video on demand.

Review-Journal: How are you weathering the pandemic?

Susan Sarandon: I’m back in the city now because I’m shooting a music video in New York City next week. Basically, I stayed in New York for 2½ months, where I realized that I am an introvert! I just didn’t want to abandon New York. I felt connected here. I raised my kids here. And New York is best in a catastrophe.

What was the toughest part of the quarantine for you?

The only difficult part is not being in the streets in the middle of these protests. I’m now checking off the at-risk boxes, age-wise.

You also spent time in the country with your adult kids.

My boys (sons Miles Robbins and Jack Henry Robbins, with actor Tim Robbins) and I cohabitated together. We spent a few months together. Jack Henry did some serious veggie gardening with me. And I cleaned out my closets. The only hard part was my daughter wasn’t there. She gave birth during the last few months and it was so hard not seeing the baby right away.

Your new movie is about dying with dignity.

It’s about dying on your own terms. My mom was 97 when she passed. I’m the oldest of nine, and some of my sisters were there with me. We were in my sister’s living room stroking my mom’s head. It was such a gift for us. In this film, the message is it’s very important to have a good death. I think that’s important for all of us — and is really important for me down the road.

What is it like filming your own death scene?

The entire cast got tattoos on the last day of shooting like we were in “Lord of the Rings.” I also died on that last day, so it was very emotional because by then everyone was very close. There were many tears. We did this on American Thanksgiving, so afterward, the producers created a big meal at a pub for us with turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Before dinner, everyone got the little blackbird tat.

Is there a certain kind of role that you’re offered now?

All I’m offered is people dying or helping people die. That’s my new area of expertise on screen! I did recently turn down something where I spent the bulk of the shoot floating around in freezing water. I read the script thinking, “This is giving me anxiety. I just can’t do it!”

Everyone agrees that these are tough times. Are you optimistic about the future?

I think you have to be optimistic about the young people in the streets and the Black Lives Matter movement. We just have to keep working. This can be a new beginning. I’m trying to work toward systemic changes. Run for your school board. Start at the bottom. Don’t ignore any of the races. We have to stand behind people at every level to make a difference. So, am I guardedly optimistic? Yes. Am I operating from despair? No. There are people who are ready to figure it out. People really do want a better world.

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