Simply by growing old gracefully, actress Susan Sarandon has defied the rules of Hollywood stardom: Not only has her fame continued to increase as she enters middle age, but the quality of her films and her performances in them has improved as well. Ultimately, she has come to embody an all-too-rare movie type -- the strong and sexy older woman. Born Susan Tomaling on October 4, 1946, in New York City, 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.