Susan Sarandon – Dead Man Walking
Susan Sarandon is often underappreciated and underrated for her versatility. Consider the contrast between her campaigning, gracious nun in Dead Man Walking, her feisty southerner in Thelma & Louise, her boo-hiss Queen in Enchanted, the comparative gentleness (but definitely not blandness) of her roles in Robot & Frank and Elizabethtown and the oomph she shows in The Client and Bull Durham. There are actors who you feel like you are catching out, seeing them “act” rather than feeling that you are witnessing a fully-fledged person. Sarandon is not such a person. She is always interesting, always layered, always eye-catching.
She and Geena Davis may have cancelled each other out come Oscar time for Thelma & Louise, but at least Sarandon got her overdue award for Dead Man Walking, which is also likely her most accomplished work. Like the next entry in this list, much of Sarandon’s success in DMW comes from her crackling interactions with her leading man, but that is not to diminish her own contribution or dismiss it as relying on the crutch of a male co-star. Sean Penn may be a powerhouse actor, but Sarandon is the heart and soul of Dead Man Walking.