Susan, who celebrates her 59th birthday today, is most famous for starring in the controversial film Straw Dogs. Here, she tells Anna Trapmore about the evening she presented her co-star Dustin Hoffman with a special movie award
“THIS picture was taken at the after party of the American Film Institute awards in 1999. Dustin Hoffman was given the Life Achievement award that year and, as his leading lady in Straw Dogs, I was asked to present it to him. We hadn’t seen each other since 1971, and Dustin didn’t know he was getting the award, so it was all a big surprise.
The AFI awards is a huge Hollywood event, and although I had previously lived and worked in LA for 12 years, it was somewhat daunting to go back. But from the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt like I had returned to my home from home. I’d been in England for eight years, but it was like I had never been away.
It was an incredible evening. Dustin came up on stage and kissed me after I’d made my speech, which was wonderful. I’ll remember that, always. Straw Dogs was a huge part of my life. It was a brilliant movie to make, although quite harrowing. The director Sam Peckinpah was a genius, but he had strong opinions and he was extremely unpredictable. He could be very violent and very genteel – but I absolutely adored him.
There are things about the film that people still find hard to accept – the violence, the connotations – but really it was a love story. Dustin and I became really good friends during filming and he had extraordinary sides to his character. He could be dark, thoughtful and provoking, but he was also a clown. Everything he did was with humour in mind. Our ways of working were very different – I am very instinctive, whereas he was quite Method – but I think those differences made for an extraordinary chemistry.
I never turned my back on Hollywood, but my husband, Simon, and I had been in California for a long time and we wanted to return to our mother country. I come from a very tight family unit, and at that time my parents were still alive so being near them was really important to me.
I still act, but time doesn’t always allow me to go to LA as much as I’d like – these days, I’ve got my photography, and Simon and I run a production company and a stud farm of more than 50 Arabian horses, which are my passion.
Dustin and I have seen each other several times since the ceremony, and I would love to think that we’ll work together again one day. I think it would be super all these years on.”