NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thwarted ambition and shattered dreams push actress Susan Sarandon to become the ultimate stage mother in "The Last of Robin Hood," a drama about the final fling of middle-aged matinee idol Errol Flynn and his teenage lover.
As Florence Aadland, the mother of Flynn's young paramour Beverly, Sarandon ventures into Aadland's deluded nature and complicit role in the illicit two-year affair that shocked Hollywood when it was made public after Flynn's death in 1959.
"I thought that it was so interesting how we self-delude in order to survive, in order to get what we think is the best thing," Sarandon, 67, said about the film that opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.
Sarandon, an Oscar winner for "Dead Man Walking," has played mothers, and even a grandmother, in films ranging from "Pretty Baby" in 1978 to 2014's comedy "Tammy."
As the frumpish Aadland, a former dancer whose career ended when she lost a leg in a car accident, Sarandon portrays a woman who lived vicariously through the daughter she had groomed for a career in Hollywood.
"Whatever her idea of the good life was, it definitely had some kind of link to show business. All those people who went out to Hollywood in those days, before it was so corporate, were able to look at it as a chance, as a dream," Sarandon said.
Academy Award winner Kevin Kline ("A Fish Called Wanda") plays Flynn, the hard-drinking, notorious ladies' man known for his swashbuckling roles in the 1930s films "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "Captain Blood."
Flynn had already faced two accusations of statutory rape that nearly ruined his waning career when he met Beverly, played by actress Dakota Fanning of the "Twilight" films.
After spotting Beverly on a studio lot where she was working as a dancer, Flynn invited her to a bogus audition, took her to dinner and seduced her. Aadland was so starstruck she convinced herself their relationship was innocent until confronted with the truth.
"They originally deceived her for quite a bit and she definitely wasn't trying to ask too many questions or push too much because she believed that this was her daughter's big break. The irony, of course, was the daughter had so little interest in the business," said Sarandon.
A divorcee and an alcoholic, Aadland accompanied Flynn and her daughter everywhere to deflect any suggestions of impropriety.
"He very smartly thought that if the mother is there all the time there won't be so much gossip, so they used her in a way," Sarandon explained.
When news of the scandal broke, Aadland was accused of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and later lost custody of Beverly. Without her daughter's permission she wrote a book about the affair called "The Big Love."
"What interested me was this agreement that they got into," said Sarandon.
"Everybody donated to the illusion," the actress added.
Editing by Eric Kelsey and Andrew Hay