Susan Sarandon’s Most Controversial Roles Have Been Offscreen

The Academy Award winner’s career thrived even as her progressive politics antagonized some liberals in Hollywood. But her agency dropped her after her remarks at a recent pro-Palestinian rally.

For decades, Susan Sarandon’s acting career thrived alongside a robust interest in political activism, which often placed her well to the left even of Hollywood’s liberal mainstream.

As she starred in films like “Bull Durham,” “Thelma & Louise” and “Dead Man Walking,” for which she won an Academy Award, she became a familiar, outspoken figure who appeared at rallies, took stances on issues at awards shows and made political endorsements. Over the years her brand of progressive politics led to clashes with others on the left, most notably in 2016, when she decided to back a Green Party candidate over Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose to Donald J. Trump.

But her politics did not appear to have much impact on her career until last week, when Ms. Sarandon, 77, was dropped by United Talent Agency after she spoke at a pro-Palestinian rally in New York held amid the Israel-Hamas war and said, “There are a lot of people that are afraid, afraid of being Jewish at this time, and are getting a taste of what it feels like to be a Muslim in this country, so often subjected to violence.”

Her remarks, first reported by The New York Post, struck a nerve at a moment when Hollywood was being divided by the war. Some in the industry were expressing alarm about rising antisemitism and felt that their community had not sufficiently expressed support for Israel after Hamas fighters killed about 1,200 Israelis and took more than 200 captive on Oct. 7. But questions were also being raised about if and when political speech should affect a career, as others in the industry lost positions and acting jobs after criticizing Israel for killing thousands of civilians in Gaza.

An assistant for Ms. Sarandon replied to an inquiry by referring to her complete speech. At the rally, Ms. Sarandon, who became a mainstay of pro-Palestinian marches in New York, said that criticism of Israel should not be seen as inherently antisemitic. “There’s a terrible thing that’s happened, where antisemitism has been confused with speaking up against Israel,” she said. “I am against antisemitism, I am against Islamophobia, I am against anything that singles out a person because of their religion or anything.”

Politics, acting and courting controversy have been intertwined in Ms. Sarandon’s career for decades. After breaking into acting in the early 1970s, appearing in the 1975 cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and earning her first Oscar nomination for 1981’s “Atlantic City,” her career gained steam with 1988’s “Bull Durham.” In it, she played a lover of baseball and baseball players who was choosing between two minor leaguers, a veteran catcher played by Kevin Costner and a young pitcher played by Tim Robbins.

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