Sarandon was born and raised in Beckley, West Virginia, the son of restaurateurs Christopher "Chris" Sarandon and Cliffie (née Cardullias). His father, whose surname was originally "Sarondonethes", was born in Istanbul, Turkey, of Greek ancestry; his mother is also of Greek ancestry.
He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley. He earned a degree in speech at West Virginia University. He earned his master's degree in theater from The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C.. While attending CUA, he married classmate Susan Tomalin in 1967. After graduating, they both pursued acting careers, with Susan taking his surname as her professional name and performing with the name Susan Sarandon. They were married until 1979.
After graduation, he toured with numerous improvisational companies and became much involved with regional theatre, making his professional debut in the play The Rose Tattoo during 1965. In 1968, Sarandon moved to New York City, where he obtained his first television role as Dr. Tom Halverson for the series The Guiding Light (1973–1974). He appeared in the primetime television movies The Satan Murders (1974) and Thursday's Game before obtaining the role of Al Pacino's transsexual wife in Dog Day Afternoon (1975), a performance which earned him nominations for Best New Male Star of the Year at the Golden Globes and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Sarandon appeared in the Broadway play The Rothschilds and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, as well making regular appearances at numerous Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw festivals in the United States and Canada. He also had a series of television roles, some of which (such as A Tale of Two Cities in 1980) corresponded to his affinity for the classics. He also had roles in the thriller movie Lipstick (1976) and as a demon in the movie The Sentinel (1977).
To avoid being typecast in villainous roles, Sarandon accepted various roles of other types during the years to come, portraying the title role of Christ in the made-for-television movie The Day Christ Died (1980). He received accolades for his portrayal of Sydney Carton in a TV-movie version of A Tale of Two Cities (1980), co-starred with Dennis Hopper in the 1983 movie The Osterman Weekend, which was based on the Robert Ludlum novel of the same name, and co-starred with Goldie Hawn in the movie Protocol (1984). These were followed by another mainstream success as the vampire-next-door in the horror movie Fright Night (1985). He starred in the 1986 TV movie Liberty, which addressed the making of New York City's statue of Liberty.
He is best known in the film industry for his role as Prince Humperdinck in Rob Reiner's 1987 movie The Princess Bride, though he also has had supporting parts in other successful movies such as the original Child's Play (1988). In 1992, he played Joseph Curwen/Charles Dexter Ward in The Resurrected. He also provided the voice of Jack Skellington, the main character of Tim Burton's animated Disney movie The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), and has since reprised the role in other productions, including the Disney/Square video games Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II and the Capcom sequel to the original movie, Oogie's Revenge. Sarandon also reprised his role as Jack Skellington for several Disneyland Halloween events and attractions including; Halloween Screams, the Frightfully Fun Parade, and the Haunted Mansion Holiday, a three-month overlay of the Haunted Mansion, where Jack and his friends take control of a mansion in an attempt to introduce Christmas, much as his character did in the movie.
Sarandon appeared in TV again with a recurring role as Dr. Burke on NBC's long-running medical drama ER.
In 1991 he performed on Broadway in the short-lived musical Nick & Nora (based on the movie The Thin Man) with Joanna Gleason, the daughter of Monty Hall. Sarandon married Gleason in 1994. They have appeared together in a number of movies, including Edie & Pen (1996), American Perfekt (1997) and Let the Devil Wear Black (1999). During the 2000s he made guest appearances in several TV series, notably as the Necromancer demon, Armand, in Charmed, and as superior court judge Barry Krumble for six episodes of Judging Amy.
In 2006 he played Signor Naccarelli in the six-time Tony award-winning Broadway musical play The Light in the Piazza at Lincoln Center. Most recently he appeared in Cyrano de Bergerac as Antoine de Guiche, with Kevin Kline, Jennifer Garner and Daniel Sunjata. He is on the Advisory Board for the Greenbrier Valley Theatre in Lewisburg, West Virginia.Haunted Mansion Holiday – Jack Skellington
Halloween Screams – Jack Skellington
Frightfully Fun Parade – Jack Skellington
Disney on Ice – Jack Skellington
Hands Clean — Alanis Morissette