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Hamptons Life

Oct 18, 2011 6:59 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

'Conversations': Lots To Talk About

Oct 26, 2011 10:20 AM

Attending the interviews with Matthew Broderick and Susan Sarandon back-to-back on Saturday afternoon was a good opportunity to experience the considerable strengths and a couple of weaknesses of the “Conversations With ...” series that, after 19 years, has become perhaps the most popular of the Hamptons International Film Festival events.

First among the strengths is when there is a nearly perfect pairing of celebrity guest and interviewer, as there was at Guild Hall when Mr. Broderick was interviewed by Alec Baldwin. Interviewed by might be a bit of an exaggeration though, because although Mr. Baldwin did pose most of

the questions, the two veteran actors spent a lot of time swapping anecdotes about stage and screen experiences. Indeed, when Mr. Baldwin launched into another recollection, his guest deadpanned, “This is more about me, though, Alec.”

Another strength were the highlight reels, prepared by the Westhampton Beach-based firm 91 East Productions. In the case of Ms. Sarandon, who was interviewed by Bob Balaban at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, the compilation of clips was a reminder of her well deserved reputation as a one-of-a-kind actress who has taken plenty of risks in her career.

Ms. Sarandon is sort of an accidental actress in that it was not her intention to enter the business. The eldest of nine children in Edison, New Jersey, at age 20 Susan Abigail Tomalin married aspiring actor Chris Sarandon.

While helping her husband audition for a play, the director liked her enough to give her a part too. Soon she was cast in the film “Joe,” which starred Peter Boyle and was a surprise hit.

But the early role she is most remembered for was in the 1975 cult classic, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” During the question-and-answer session with the audience, one man confessed to having seen it 26 times.

It was also demonstrated that Ms. Sarandon is one of the few actresses who can have a 10-minute, fast-moving highlight reel devoted to her that still doesn’t cover all her work. Her wonderful performances in “White Palace,” “Lorenzo’s Oil,” and “Compromising Positions,” for example, received little or no attention. However, there was plenty to feast on—playing opposite Burt Lancaster in “Atlantic City;” the mother of Brooke Shields in “Pretty Baby;” the gun-toting companion to Geena Davis in “Thelma & Louise;” and as the nun who could love even a convicted killer, played by Sean Penn, in “Dead Man Walking,” for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award in 1995.

Early in the interview, Ms. Sarandon offered an anecdote about being cast in 1987’s “The Witches of Eastwick.” Her character was to share many scenes with Jack Nicholson. She arrived on the set to find that her role had been given to Cher. However, she could still do the picture playing a different, lesser role.

The actress had to decide between suing the producers and not working for years or growing as an actress and making the other role her own. She chose to work, and as Mr. Balaban pointed out, “You stole that movie.”

Another anecdote she shared was about the making of “Bull Durham.” The film had a first-time writer-director, Ron Shelton, and one of the three main characters was the then unknown actor Tim Robbins, who would later become Ms. Sarandon’s partner for approximately two decades. When the over-budget film ran past its shooting schedule, the studio wanted to shut it down. But her costar, Kevin Costner, fought for the movie and ensured its completion. The film ended up doing boffo box office and is on most “best baseball movies” lists.

An evident weakness in this particular “Conversation With ...” was that although Mr. Balaban and Ms. Sarandon had a friendly relationship (he has directed her in two films), he soon ran out of prepared questions. It was left up to the audience, which unfortunately opened the door for too many general, less probing, questions.

The highlight reel at Mr. Broderick’s sit-down was also a gem, reminding the audience not only of his accomplishments but also revealing the diversity of his work and depth of his talent.

After watching the montage, one could easily conclude that he has flown under the radar a bit as one of his generation’s best stage and screen actors. But it was the repartee between the two men which stole this show. Mr. Baldwin was generous in his praise of his interviewee, but even better was the interviewer’s sardonic sense of humor and edginess, which were the perfect complements to Mr. Broderick’s low-key, yet sly demeanor.

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right on the money with these reviews. Unfortunately, the Broderick/Baldwin conversation was sidetracked by that deranged audience member but I could have sat there for another hour listening to them. They were both very smart, funny and seem to know each other well enough to keep the conversation going seamlessly.
By mojo (1), Little Falls on Oct 18, 11 1:48 PM
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