The actress, mom of three, and table tennis aficionado gets ready for her next big role: empty nester.

On-screen, she’s played a variety of challenging roles, from a sexy baseball groupie (Bull Durham) and a dying divorced mom (Stepmom) to a gun-toting waitress on the lam (Thelma and Louise) and a nun who befriended an inmate on death row (Dead Man Walking). But perhaps it’s the offscreen role of empty nester that remains the most challenging to date for Susan Sarandon.

The accomplished Academy Award-winning actress is the mother of three — daughter Eva (25) and sons Jack Henry (21) and Miles (18). Motherhood is a role in which she clearly excels, having kept the children of show-business parents — Eva is the daughter of Italian film director Franco Amurri, and Jack Henry and Miles are her sons with former partner, actor Tim Robbins — grounded and on an even keel. All three have picked up the family film genes; Eva is a film and television actress (mother and daughter appeared together in the 2002 film The Banger Sisters), Jack is studying directing at the University of Southern California, and Miles recently appeared with his mother in the 2009 film The Greatest.

Thelma and Louise
mgm/courtesy everett collection
Miles will be the last to leave home, as both mother and son are anxiously awaiting college-acceptance letters, although Sarandon feels “there may be a gap, as he is really a good musician.” As for empty nesting, the upbeat actress is “very excited about my next stage as well as the next stage of my children’s lives. It is so much fun to see people [her children] that you want to have dinner, laugh, and go places with. I am more curious than ever and feel like I have shifted in a good way and don’t have to check on the kids every two seconds and plan meals. Everything changes when you have to be home in the evening and get kids up for school in the morning!”

One thing that will not change, however, is her acting career. At a time when parts for women over 50 in Hollywood are few and far between, longevity appears to be the 63-year-old actress’ strong suit (she is in great company with contemporaries Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Sigourney Weaver, and Jessica Lange). Sarandon has appeared in more than 50 feature films, on television, and on Broadway since her breakout performance as the naive Janet in the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975.

Sarandon’s recent work includes the biopic You Don’t Know Jack, on HBO earlier in the spring. Actor Al Pacino played the role of the infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who assists dying patients with end-of-life suicides, and Sarandon played civil rights advocate Janet Good. Also out in the spring was her film Peacock, a psychological thriller about a resident of tiny Peacock, Nebraska, who lives an invisible life.