CT's Chris Sarandon, star of 'Princess Bride' and 'Nightmare Before Christmas,' launches food podcast

After appearing in iconic films like "Dog Day Afternoon," "Fright Night," "Child's Play" and more, Sarandon talks food and memory with friends and castmates.

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Christopher Guest and Chris Sarandon in "The Princess Bride."

Christopher Guest and Chris Sarandon in "The Princess Bride."

Courtesy of Chris Sarandon

Chris Sarandon has played many iconic roles in the nearly 60 years he’s been a working actor. 

But we’ll start with his villainous — yet endearing — turn as Prince Humperdinck in 1987’s “The Princess Bride” and, as he said, “skip to end.”

You can find Sarandon’s podcast, “Cooking By Heart” on Spotify, Audible, Apple Podcasts and more. The first four episodes are available now.

Which begs a question that evokes another of his iconic characters, Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s “the Nightmare Before Christmas,” a role he split with composer and singer Danny Elfman (OK, technically it’s Elfman’s line), “What’s this?”

Long before Sarandon — a now-80-year-old Connecticut resident — earned an Academy Award nomination for his role as Leon Shermer, a trans woman living as a man, opposite Al Pacino in 1975’s “Dog Day Afternoon,” Sarandon was the son of Greek immigrants growing up in Beckley, W.Va., the “Smokeless Coal Capital” and county seat of Raleigh County.

At home, his mother made traditional Greek dishes like youvarlakia, a soup combining the savory richness of ground meat, mint, rice and other spices with the citrusy zing of avgolemono.

“It’s an island stew from the Greek islands,” Sarandon said. “My mother would make it and I would watch her. She passed on that tradition to me, and I've passed it on to my children and my grandchildren.”

His father cooked, as well. The family ran a restaurant in town that catered the more “all-American” palate of a coal town.

“There were lots of you know, burgers and grilled cheese and soups, but also lots of fresh food,” Sarandon recalls.

Chris Sarandon in "Dog Day Afternoon."

Chris Sarandon in "Dog Day Afternoon."

Chris Sarandon

He grew up between home and the restaurant, washing dishes starting around 8 years old and moving through nearly every station in the restaurant. It was there Sarandon would form this “100-percent American, full-blooded Greek” identity.

“I both was trying as hard as I could to become assimilated. And and at the same time, I was immersed in this very, very strong Greek culture,” Sarandon. said “I think maybe — looking back on it in a kind of armchair analysis — that's one of the things that made me an actor.”

It’s this interplay of food and core memories Sarandon hopes to evoke from his guests.

"As I think back on my long life, the memories that are particularly vivid to me are the food memories. And whenever I ask questions of my guests about their experience with food when they were children, it opens up a cornucopia of memories, not only about the food they ate but about their family and about their community."

Fairfield resident, and actor Chris Sarandon, has launched a podcast that is titled: "Cooking By Heart." The podcast has celebrity guests. The podcast was launched on Monday, October 4, 2022. The podcast is about food, and cooking. The podcast also features friends talking about the cooking, and memories of favorite foods that were enjoyed while growning up. Sarandon is shown.

Fairfield resident, and actor Chris Sarandon, has launched a podcast that is titled: "Cooking By Heart." The podcast has celebrity guests. The podcast was launched on Monday, October 4, 2022. The podcast is about food, and cooking. The podcast also features friends talking about the cooking, and memories of favorite foods that were enjoyed while growning up. Sarandon is shown.

Contributed photo

Sarandon said now is a particularly important time to hold on and reminisce with those memories as communities around the world have been shattered by war, disease and economic hardship.

"It's that sense of being back home — even if it's in our mind and even if it's just in the stories that we tell — that somehow helps us to deal with the the, the cacophony of not only what's going on in the world, but also the internet, which is something that that provides a kind of interference that puts a barrier between us and others. And anything that we can do to to foster communication (we should). I think food is a great way to communicate."

His latest episode, released Oct. 18, features a conversation with Cary Elwes. Elwes is an English actor who played the hero, Wesley, in “Princess Bride.” He also starred in films like “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and “Hot Shots,” and he has made notable guest appearances on shows like “Stranger Things” and “Psych.”

Sarandon’s guest list includes notable actors, filmmakers and authors, along with figures from various walks of life.

“I don't really concentrate on the entertainment side of the lives of these people,” he said. “I thought it would be interesting to talk to people about what their experiences were like with food when they were growing up, particularly when they were at home with their parents.”

It’s there we learn of a young Elwes’ fondness for frozen fish fingers (fish sticks here in New England) and the first time his “tastebuds explored a different cuisine” at 7 years old when his father moved to Spain and he discovered tapas.

“We all are connected to the foods that we tasted as a child,” Elwes told Sarandon. “In a profound way.”

The tortilla espanola, a sort of potato omelet, is still a staple for Elwes to eat and to cook. 

The conversation also rolls into dinners with director Rob Reiner and co-star Andre the Giant while filming “Princess Bride,” the limerickal prowess of co-star Christopher Guest and the dinners Sarandon and Elwes still get together for when appearing at conventions.

The podcast launched in early October with three episodes. One of Sarandon’s favorite stories, he said, came from a conversation with actor Michael Tucker.

“Mike had some great stories about growing up in Baltimore,” Sarandon said. “He was a delivery boy for one of his uncles who was a wholesale jeweler. His uncle would check his pockets when he first came in to make sure there were no holes in the pockets, and he stuffed his pockets with jewelry.” 

Tucker would go deliver the contents of his jewel-stuffed pockets around the neighborhood. His uncle also had him pick up lunch.

“Mike would go to this pool hall and pick up brisket sandwiches” Sarandon said. “And while he was waiting for their brisket sandwiches, he would eat his in the corner sort of surreptitiously. Just colorful stories. Running around, paranoid, with jewelry in your pockets and brisket sandwiches. That’s a food story.”

Fright Night (1985): Horror movie-obsessed Charlie discovers that his new neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire—and worse, his neighbor knows that Charlie's aware of his true identity. Naturally, Charlie enlists the help of a washed-up actor who hosts his favorite late-night horror movie TV show (played by a perfectly bumbling Roddy McDowall) in order to slay the beast who's ruining the neighborhood. Amazon
Fright Night (1985):

Horror movie-obsessed Charlie discovers that his new neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire—and worse, his neighbor knows that Charlie's aware of his true identity. Naturally, Charlie enlists the help of a washed-up actor who hosts his favorite late-night horror movie TV show (played by a perfectly bumbling Roddy McDowall) in order to slay the beast who's ruining the neighborhood.

Amazon

Columbia Pictures

To get ready for Halloween, Sarandon tapped a triumvirate of his horror movie cohorts for a special holiday episode with Amanda Bearse, William Ragsdale and Jonathan Stark. The three starred with Sarandon in the ‘80s vampire film, “Fright Night.”

New episodes are posted bi-weekly.

 

This story has been updated to correct that it was Michael Tucker who Chris Sarandon was referring to when talking about his favorite episodes.