Susan Sarandon appears in a TV movie Sunday about a woman stuck at the South Pole, which may be exactly where her critics would like her.
Although Sarandon's portrayal of Dr. Jerri Nielsen, who must perform a biopsy on herself in Antarctica, stands with some of Sarandon's best work, the attention this week is on the actress' opinion of the war in Iraq.
Last week, she and her partner, Tim Robbins, were told by Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey, a former assistant press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, that he was canceling a 15th anniversary celebration of their film "Bull Durham." Petroskey said the couple's antiwar stance "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger." Earlier, Sarandon's appearance at a United Way event in Florida was canceled.
Groups such as the Citizens Against Celebrity "Pundits" have targeted the couple along with others, including Martin Sheen, Barbra Streisand and Janeane Garofalo. Similarly, Dixie Chicks CDs were smashed and the music banned by some stations after an offhand comment by one of the members that she was ashamed President Bush was also from Texas. And filmmaker Michael Moore was booed by some when he chided the president during an Academy Award acceptance speech.
"I don't ever remember being in a climate where people were so afraid to even have a conversation about some of these issues, that people would be irate to have a healthy debate," Sarandon said.
During a recent teleconference to promote "Ice Bound: A Woman's Survival at the South Pole," which is on CBS on Sunday night, reporters were asked to "please keep your questions on the topic." But there was no way to keep from asking the 56-year-old actress about her activism and the hubbub it has caused.
"The only way you have a healthy democracy is if you have a healthy debate," she said. "I don't think because I'm an actor that I have to give up asking questions."
It's not as if Hollywood celebrities are the only ones questioning the war. "The pope, all the church leaders, millions of people around the world, the U.N.," Sarandon said. "I'm not alone in this asking of questions."
Celebrity involvement helps gain coverage for events that may not otherwise be noted, Sarandon says. "If people come to me and tell me they're cutting AIDS [funding] in New York and nobody knows it, it means Rosie Perez and I go down with these 150 demonstrators to City Hall, then the TV cameras will come."
Sarandon defends celebrity activism as an opportunity to raise issues more than as a chance to push views.
"A lot of times, it's just really an attempt to give people access to information," she said.
"The fact of the matter is if you have any piece of information that is not what the corporate powers want you to hear, you can't get your information out. It's just a lock. It doesn't matter how many people are out in the street."