Susan Sarandon--one of the three witches in the just-opened "Witches of Eastwick"--purposely timed a trip to Italy to coincide with this weekend's opening.

Why? While Sarandon says she's "very pleased" with director George Miller's version of John Updike's novel about modern-day witchery in a small New England town, she wasn't so pleased with the experience of making the film.

"It's (the experience) really made me a different person. . . . It's hardened me," Sarandon explained, adding, "But it was also an eye-opening experience, and in this sense it's been a valuable lesson."

She referred to the "betrayal" she said she felt at being given the role of a sexually frustrated cellist after initially being assured she would play what she saw as the more central role (a carefree, fun-loving, man-loving sculptress), which later went to Cher.

Said Sarandon: "I've learned that a promise is not a promise, a person's word is not a person's word." Citing what she believes is a "lack of responsibility" within the ranks of studio executives, Sarandon explained, "I think we're at a low point in terms of integrity, honesty, self-respect. There seems to be some advantage in taking advantage of the other guy."

But she said that, in order to avoid becoming involved in any negative discussions about the Warner Bros. film, she'll spend her summer in Europe.

Sarandon did team with co-stars Cher and Michelle Pfeiffer for several taped TV interviews and did one solo "Today" spot and a trio of print interviews.

A spokesman for Warners said the studio would have no comment.

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