Sarandon gets it's wrong.. again..


Alan Smithiee
April 17, 2003, 12:14 PM
(read all the way through, it gets interesting in the second half)

Real Dr. Nielsen rejects Susan Sarandon's portrayal in TV film Ice Bound

Canadian Press

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
CREDIT: (CP /CBS/ Ben Mark Holzberg)

Actress Susan Sarandon portrays Dr. Jerri Nielsen in Ice Bound. (CP /CBS/ Ben Mark Holzberg)


TORONTO (CP) - "I wanted to work on Lake Simcoe."

That was Susan Sarandon's flip initial reply when asked what drew the Academy Award-winning actor to her latest project, the TV movie Ice Bound, airing Sunday on CBS and Global TV. It was flip because she said later that while she was dressed warmly for the scenes shot on the Ontario lake last winter she doesn't handle cold weather very well.

And what really attracted her was the story of Jerri Nielsen, the Ohio doctor who made news back in 1999 when she had to treat herself for breast cancer at the Amundsen-Scott Antarctic research station. Lake Simcoe substituted for the South Pole for the film produced by Montreal's Muse Entertainment.

As played by Sarandon, the doctor had to do her own biopsy and treat herself with makeshift chemotherapy over the winter until an emergency flight could rescue her months later.

"I wasn't interested in doing just another disease-of-the-week TV movie," said Sarandon. "It's not a movie about breast cancer."

Sarandon, 56, said the heart of the story is how people need other people and in Nielsen's case how she went from a non-team player to someone who found the courage to ask for help. Ice Bound shows Nielsen as withdrawn, even anti-social when she arrives at her Antarctic outpost where she is the only doctor in a small community of researchers.

"I think all my movies are really about the courage it takes to extend yourself to another human being," said Sarandon, who won an Oscar for playing a nun who helps a death-row inmate in the 1995 film Dead Man Walking.

"I hope we got the essence of what she's about and what she felt. She seemed to have fun on the set. . .I hope she's pleased. I don't know."

Alas it was not to be.

In one of those public relations exercises that goes horribly wrong, Nielsen made it clear in a phone interview - arranged by CBS - that they didn't get it.

"I don't think she read my book, she didn't talk to me," she said. "I don't care who plays me as long as they play me accurately. I'm an exuberant, happy person who bites off life. And they played me as a person who was angry, difficult, didn't want to be there, wanted to quit, didn't want to play the game. And then slowly I'm transformed "

She said the truth is that, far from being sullen, brittle and fleeing unnamed personal issues back home, she was never happier than when she arrived at the South Pole. The standoffish person in the film, she maintained, is total fiction.

"When I saw the script I said 'This isn't me!' And they said 'Well, we have to change you, we have to take you from one person who people can see is different, to a person who has been transformed spiritually.'"

Indeed, Sarandon said that to her, the key moment of the film occurs when Nielsen finally breaks down and, after discovering a lump in her breast, finally reaches out.

"The really tough thing is for someone to ask for help and especially when you're a confident woman who's not in the habit, and especially when you're a doctor."

Sarandon said she's not interested in seeing silently suffering victims get canonized. "I want to see the underbelly, I want to see the edginess, I want to see the problems. That's what makes it real."

But it was "totally not true" to the real Nielsen, who by the way is now cancer-free.

"I'm the kind of person who gets to know everyone no matter who they are. And likes almost everybody. And so, no, that wasn't me.

"That's kind of a disappointment when you watch a picture about yourself and it's not you," Nielsen said.

"The story is about community and about the power of friendship and the ability of human beings to survive together."

But the filmmakers can take solace. Nielsen did like the Canadian set, praising it for being so close to the real thing.

"Every little part of my little hospital was perfect," she said. "When I walked in to the set I thought 'My God, it's my hospital. It's the Pole.' And when I saw the outside and the way the people drove around in snowmobiles and the way they made it look like Antarctica, even though it was a frozen lake in Ontario, it was incredible."

On that point, it was Sarandon who was less them impressed, especially when she had to shoot interiors on a Toronto sound stage chilled in order to see the actors' breath.

"I'm just glad it wasn't a romantic comedy where we were bouncing around in negligees."
© Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press

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April 17, 2003, 12:19 PM
While a little Sarandon-bashing is frequently good for the soul, this really isn't very on-topic. ;)

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