I'll admit, I've never been a fan of "Sandra Bullock movies." Almost universally, I find them unwatchable. Of the 35 or so she's made, I could willingly return to maybe five. Sandra Bullock the person, however, I'm a great fan of. She remains one of the most authentic folks I've encountered in my career as a film journalist. I'm also a great fan of Sandra Bullock the actress, which surprises me every time I state this fact. She is often the best part of whatever movie she's in, and possesses an on-screen energy -- call it her "star quality" -- that invigorates every scene she finds herself in. A few weeks ago, at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Bullock -- or Sandy as she's commonly known -- showed up to discuss her unprecedented year of success: two critically acclaimed box-office triumphs in The Proposal and The Blind Side, two flicks that nobody expected to become blockbusters, much less earn Sandy two Golden Globe Best Actress nominations and now a Best Actress Oscar nod.
"Odd," she admitted, when asked how she's finding all the attention suddenly being foisted upon her. "I do have to say, everything that's happened this year wasn't planned. None of this was on the calendar. I don't know how it feels because I just like to work. I don't usually get accolades, as you can see from a lot of my work. It's been a big year in a way I haven't gotten used to yet."
Sandy went on to contextualize the whirlwind she currently finds herself in. "This month has felt for me like the week following the release of Speed," she said, referencing her star-making turn as the reluctant driver of an out-of-control bus. "Strange, and confused how I got here."
The actress loves to laugh at herself, and always strives to not take her success too seriously. It's a trait that has helped her survive many box-office blunders, like the sequel to the aforementioned Speed: Speed 2: Cruise Control. "Aw!" she groaned with a smile when the debacle was brought up. Recall that Keanu "Whoa" Reeves, who starred in the original, jumped (pun intended) ship for the cruise-ship-located follow-up, paving the way for Jason Patric to fail in his stead with Sandy along again for the high-octane -- OK, low-octane -- ride.
"I look back," Sandy said, "at those five months in St. Martins, wondering: if the boat is going slow enough for jet skis to keep up with us, why didn't we just jump off the boat?" Fair question, and one she claims to have often brought up to the wrong-headed filmmakers. "Keanu knew something I didn't because he said 'no' to the project." However, she went on to add, "The best learning experience I ever had was Speed 2. If not for it, I wouldn't have changed the direction of my career. I wouldn't have known what not to do."
You know, like All About Steve, the Death Star-sized embarrassment that was released this year to scathing reviews and a whopping less-than-$15 million at the domestic box office, a far cry from Proposal and Blind Side, both of which have earned hundreds of millions internationally. Blind Side, in fact, made Sandy the first over-the-title actress to headline a $200 million+ movie.
"That was a hard experience. It made me think maybe I shouldn't be in this business," she said of the movie, which she also produced. "We wanted to say something [as filmmakers], and I think we said it. Just nobody understood it."
This was all offered up with a smile. For Sandy, All About Steve is the perfect counterpoint to the success of Proposal and Blind Side. Its failure keeps her honest, in other words, and she, like most, finds it hilariously ironic that, in the same year that she's nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for Blind Side, she's also been nominated for a Worst Actress award at the notorious Razzies.
"Hell yeah, I'm going to the Razzies," she announced. "It's going to be a really good party. These people are going to be drunk the whole time!"
"Every single job other people would look down on got me here," she added. "Without them, I wouldn't be here."
As for The Blind Side and the role of Leigh Anne Touey, the hyper-protective adoptive mother of an inner-city-born, tenderhearted football giant, Sandy explained she fought taking the part for a long time. "I said 'no' to The Blind Side more times than I could count," she began. "The studio said no to it more times than I could count." Nobody, it seems, recognized the true potential in the project. "But the director, [John Lee Hancock], had a vision and stuck with it." She ultimately accepted the job when it was pointed out that she shouldn't look at the movie as a career move, but rather just a human story that had to be told, that she, as a major box-office draw, could guarantee would be told.
On March 7, tune into the Oscar telecast, where an actress who starred in movies like Love Potion No. 9, Miss Congeniality, and All About Steve will steal the Best Actress statue from one of her idols, Meryl Streep, and make a lot of naysayers look like fools. Hopefully she'll view the award as a mandate that she continue to choose smart, quality projects that help redefine what a "Sandra Bullock movie" is.