As we said, Sarandon’s passion for human rights and social justice started early on — at least at a much younger age than most people we know. The early 60s came along, and they brought along the US involvement in the Vietnam War, which struck a chord with young Susan.
When she was just a high school student in New Jersey, she attended several protests and rallies against the Vietnam War, being a fierce believer in civil rights. In fact, Sarandon attended so many of these events that she was arrested several times for unlawful behavior. However, these early events would be the base for a long and passionate life in activism.
Growing Up in a Big Family
Susan Sarandon was born in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York, in 1946. It was probably a very loud household, considering she is the eldest of nine children! She has four brothers and four sisters, who were all brought up Roman Catholic, just like her.
Her parents believed in hard work and dedication, which was probably the spark that ignited Sarandon’s passion for human rights and social justice. Sarandon and her siblings all attended Catholic schools, and she was often involved in school plays and productions, taking the lead role. Sarandon and her sisters were also great swimmers and won several competitions.
Independent From a Young Age
In 1964, Sarandon graduated from high school and enrolled in the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She obtained her B.A. in drama in 1968, all the while supporting herself with odd jobs, even after finishing her degree. We all know how hard it is to support yourself financially while being in college.
Of course, tuition back then wasn't as steep as it is today, but that doesn't belittle Sarandon's achievements. Sarandon worked in several jobs to pay for her education and lifestyle, such as cleaning houses, cutting hair, operating switchboards, and others. From a young age, Sarandon believed in being economically independent and working hard for oneself.
A Necessary Marriage
Back when she was Susan Tomalin and a 17-year-old freshman at the Catholic University, she met Chris Sarandon, a grad student. This man played a very important role in her life. He was Susan’s first boyfriend, first intimate experience, and first everything.
Seeing as they were in a Catholic college, they had to get married or face getting kicked out. They tied the knot in 1967, and Susan recalls that they would decide at the end of each year if they wanted to stay together and renew their vows. Finally, in 1979, they decided to separate, but she kept his surname.
Her First Acting Gig
It turns out that Susan’s first and only husband, Chris Sarandon, was also an aspiring actor. This must be one of the reasons why the two were such a good match. There is nothing like a shared passion to bring people together and bond them.
And so, shortly after graduation, in 1969, she and Chris attended an audition for a dark, grimy N.Y. film called “Joe.” Chris didn’t get the part, but Susan was offered the role of Melissa Compton, a young woman with substance abuse problems whose father eventually killed her boyfriend and dealer. This role launched her acting career.