The Full Story
Chris Sarandon was born in 1942 of immigrant Greek parents, in the town of Beckley, in the southern coal fields of West Virginia. His father owned a restaurant where Sarandon worked part time from age 10 through his high school years. In high school he was president of the student council as well as having a part time stint as a rock and roll drummer with his band, The Teen Tones. They recorded and were the local go-to back up band for visiting rock stars, including Lloyd Price and Bobby Darin. After obtaining a college scholarship in an extempore speech contest, he attended West Virginia University, where he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Drama. Sarandon continued his education at the Catholic University of America, receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theater, during which time he toured with C.U.’s classical touring company, acting as truck driver, lighting supervisor and playing Romeo. After working for a year with an improvisational theater company in Washington, D.C., doing experimental plays in schools, he then became a member of the professional Equity acting company at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven Connecticut.
Moving to New York in the late 60’s with his then wife Susan, he was immediately cast in the soap opera “The Guiding Light,” before returning to the theater, where he was cast as Jacob Rothschild in the long running original Broadway musical, “The Rothschilds.” This was followed by his replacing Raul Julia in the hit Broadway musical romp, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”
Sarandon was then chosen by Sidney Lumet to play the pivotal role of Al Pacino’s would-be transsexual lover in the film “Dog Day Afternoon,” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture, and nominated for a New York Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor. This was followed by starring roles in the films “Lipstick,” “Cuba,” Sam Peckinpah’s last film “The Osterman Weekend,” “Protocol” with Goldie Hawn, the cult vampire classic “Fright Night,” “The Princess Bride,” and as the voice of the lead character Jack Skellington in the animated classic, Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and the dastardly Prince Humperdinck in “The Princess Bride.” More recently he has appeared in “I Smile Back” with Sarah Silverman, and in Adriana Trigiani’s “Big Stone Gap.”
On Television Sarandon has starred in the dual roles of Sidney Carton and Charles Darnay in the CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame production of “A Tale of Two Cities” with an all-star British cast, as Thomas Wolfe in the Hall of Fame production of “You Can’t Go Home Again,” and as Jesus in “The Day Christ Died,” among many other movie specials for television. He has also appeared in recurring roles on the series “ER,” “Picket Fences,” “The Practice,” “Felicity,”, and “Judging Amy.” He starred with Sally Field as a Supreme Court judge in the short-lived ABC series, “The Court.” Returning to his first love, the theater, he appeared with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner as the reformed villain the Comte de Guiche in the acclaimed Broadway production of “Cyrano de Bergerac.” His Off-Broadway appearances include: playing five roles in the critically lauded Lincoln Center production of Dave Malloy’s musical play “Preludes;” “Through a Glass Darkly,” with Carey Mulligan at the New York Theater Workshop; John Guare’s “Marco Polo Sings a Solo” with Madelyn Kahn, Joel Gray, and Sigourney Weaver at the New York Public Theater; and David Mamet’s two-character play “The Woods,” also at the Public.
Sarandon is currently writing his memoirs and has created a podcast discussing, with his guests, our youthful relationship with food. More importantly, he is married to the incomparable Joanna Gleason, with whom he starred in the well-remembered but ill-fated Broadway musical “Nick and Nora.” They have nine grandchildren . . . and counting.