Susan Sarandon

updated 05/06/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/06/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

IN HOLLYWOOD THEY'RE STILL telling the story of the red-and-white striped dress that Susan Sarandon wore to lobby for her sexy role in 1988's Bull Durham. "It was fabulous. It looked like it was painted on," says the film's director, Ron Shelton. "It was like something that Sophia Loren would have worn. Susan knows how to stop traffic." While actresses years younger are rushing in for nips and tucks, this 49-year-old mother of three—whom Playboy is still hounding, unsuccessfully, to bare all—manages to exude "that quality that you see in European actresses who allow themselves to age naturally," says Joel Schumacher, who directed her in The Client. "I still have that red-and-white striped dress," Sarandon said last year. "And I can still wear it." Even so, playing a nun in Dead Man Walking with no makeup and a bad haircut was scary for her. "I heard she cried when she saw the first screening," says Sister Helen Prejean, whom Sarandon portrayed in the film. "I realized how costly it was for her to do it." But her spartan appearance didn't deter costar Sean Penn. "How do you do a movie with Susan Sarandon and not fall in love with her?" he asked. "You don't." But then, Sarandon has had plenty of experience quickening pulses. Back in Catholic school, she once said, "I was told I had an overabundance of original sin."

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