Susan Sarandon calls out the media for spreading misinformation: 'There's an erosion of truth' (exclusive)

Hanna Flint

Susan Sarandon has issues with the media and the way it covers celebrity culture as well as politics.

The actress explained why to Yahoo Movies UK during an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival while promoting her new movie The Death and Life of John F. Donovan.

In Xavier Dolan’s film, Sarandon plays the mother of the titular character John, a closeted TV actor who falls victim to embellished narratives published in various media outlets, including British tabloids, after it is revealed he has spent five years writing letters back and forth with an 11-year-old boy.

“Any kind of relationship gets scrutinised,” the actress said. “it’s pretty hard to find a way to be private but also there’s an erosion of truth. People can print anything, Presidents can say anything, and it doesn’t matter if its opinion as opposed to the truth – it’s just presented as fact.

“[There are] so many magazines with really specific in-depth stories that are completely based on creative writing so I think we’re living in a time that has become really difficult. You can accuse someone of something, or report something, and it is very hard to take it back.”

Susan Sarandon in The Death and Life of John F. Donovan

Sarandon says she feels for actors nowadays who are struggling to maintain privacy as “everybody has a phone with a camera…so there’s a kind of awareness of your presentation that didn’t exist before which is hard to escape.” Though her biggest concern is about people being fed misinformation by media outlets about politics and social issues, not celebrities.

“I don’t think it matters in terms of some of the silly stories about celebrities, you just don’t read those things” she argued. “You just go to see people’s work and whatever, I find it difficult when it leaks into information that’s relevant.”

Sarandon recalled the 2016 Democratic party presidential primaries, claiming that she was victim to numerous false headlines about her support of Bernie Sanders. 

“I found that so many times, for instance, during the Primary when I was supporting Bernie Sanders and not Hillary Clinton there were so many headlines that were created about me that didn’t even have an article to follow them, that then got picked up because people were just reading the clickbait,” she said.

“Some British publications I’ve even had problems with [that] take an interview from somewhere else, and give it a false title, and if you read the article it doesn’t say that in it, but they get the traffic to their site,” Sarandon continued.

Actor Susan Sarandon arrives for the world premiere of The Death and Life of John F. Donovan at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Canada, September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

“I think that is really a problem because when it really impacts people on how they vote or information about candidates, then you are really messing with the truth, in a way.”

The actress has been the subject of widespread criticism of late for comments she made at TIFF about Trump’s election, after Variety claimed she had said the controversial president had inspired more women and people of colour to run for office, as well as her other movie Viper Club with the mother of an ISIS victim alleging that she stole her story.

Yahoo Movies UK also spoke with Kit Harington, who plays the titular character in The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, about how much his own life informed his performance and, in some ways, reflected it.

“In some ways, it’s very very close and in some ways, it’s quite far away and that was always the interesting challenge with this character,” the British star explained. “He’s in a big TV show, a big TV star, some of the whirlwind that is his life I can very much put my experience to but also relate to having a secret life.

“I have my own life, my own secrets, my own personal privacy and things that are mine and personal to me but I’m not a gay man who is hiding his sexuality and that’s who John is and what tears John apart by the end of the film.”

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan premiered at Toronto International Film Festival but has yet to be given a UK release date.

Updated Sept 18: an earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed a Variety quote to Ms. Sarandon

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