Born Susan Tomalin on October 4, 1946, in Queens, NY, she was the oldest of nine children. Even while attending the Catholic University of America, she did not study acting, and in fact expressed no interest in performing until after marrying actor Chris Sarandon. While accompanying her husband on an audition, Sarandon landed a pivotal role in the controversial 1970 feature Joe, and suddenly her own career as an actress was well underway. She soon became a regular on the daytime soap opera A World Apart and in 1972 appeared in the feature Mortadella.
Lovin' Molly and The Front Page followed in 1974 before Sarandon earned cult immortality as Janet Weiss in 1975's camp classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the quintessential midnight movie of its era. After starring with Robert Redford in 1975's The Great Waldo Pepper, Sarandon struggled during the mid-'70s in a number of little-seen projects, including 1976's The Great Smokey Roadblock and 1978's Checkered Flag or Crash. Upon beginning a relationship with the famed filmmaker Louis Malle, however, her career took a turn for the better as she starred in the provocative Pretty Baby, portraying the prostitute mother of a 12-year-old Brooke Shields. Sarandon and Malle next teamed for 1980's superb Atlantic City, for which she earned her first Oscar nomination. After appearing in Paul Mazursky's Tempest, she then starred in Tony Scott's controversial 1983 horror film The Hunger, playing a scientist seduced by a vampire portrayed by Catherine Deneuve. The black comedy Compromising Positions followed in 1985, as did the TV miniseries Mussolini and I. Women of Valor, another mini, premiered a year later.
While Sarandon had enjoyed a prolific career virtually from the outset, stardom remained just beyond her grasp prior to the mid-'80s. First, a prominent appearance with Jack Nicholson, Cher, and Michelle Pfeiffer in the 1986 hit The Witches of Eastwick brought her considerable attention, and then in 1988 she delivered a breakthrough performance in Ron Shelton's hit baseball comedy Bull Durham, which finally made her a star, at the age of 40. More important, the film teamed her with co-star Tim Robbins, with whom she soon began a long-term offscreen relationship. After a starring role in the 1989 apartheid drama A Dry White Season, Sarandon teamed with Geena Davis for Thelma and Louise, a much-discussed distaff road movie which became among the year's biggest hits and won both actresses Oscar nominations. Sarandon was again nominated for 1992's Lorenzo's Oil and 1994's The Client before finally winning her first Academy Award for 1995's Dead Man Walking, a gut-wrenching examination of the death penalty, adapted and directed by Robbins. Now a fully established star, Sarandon had her choice of projects; she decided to lend her voice to Tim Burton's animated James and the Giant Peach (1996). Two years later, she was more visible with starring roles in the thriller Twilight (starring opposite Paul Newman and Gene Hackman) and Stepmom, a weepie co-starring Julia Roberts. The same year, she had a supporting role in the John Turturro film Illuminata.
Sarandon continued to stay busy in 1999, starring in Anywhere But Here, which featured her as Natalie Portman's mother, and Cradle Will Rock, Robbins' first directorial effort since Dead Man Walking. On television, Sarandon starred with Stephen Dorff in an adaptation of Anne Tyler's Earthly Possessions, and showed a keen sense of humor in her various appearances on SNL, Chappelle's Show, and Malcolm in the Middle. After starring alongside Goldie Hawn in The Banger Sisters, Sarandon could be seen in a variety of projects including Alfie (2004), Romance and Cigarettes (2005), and Elizabethtown (2006). In 2007, Sarandon joined Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg in The Lovely Bones, director Peter Jackson's adaptation of Alice Sebold's novel of the same name.
She continued her heavy work schedule into the 2010s- in 2012 alone, the actress took on the role of a long-suffering mother to two grown sons in various states of distress for Jeff, Who Lives at Home, appeared as an older version of a character played by her daughter, Eva Amurri Martino, in That's My Boy and played a variety of supporting roles in the Wachowskis' Cloud Atlas. The following year found her in the crime drama Snitch, the ensemble rom-com The Big Wedding and in the Errol Flynn biopic The Last of Robin Hood. In 2014, she played Melissa McCarthy's grandmother in the comedy Tammy, and appeared as herself in Zoolander 2 (2016).