The M Interview: Sandra Bullock on her brand of crisis management
'I don't sweat the big stuff' says Our Brand Is Crisis star Sandra Bullock
Over the course of her career, Sandra Bullock has been labelled "America's sweetheart" - and there's a reason.
Her persona is that of the likeable girl next door who could be your best friend, the spunky charmer who is not scary beautiful.
And when you meet the US actress, that's what you think about, not the Hollywood powerhouse who made a reported US$70 million (S$100.4 million) doing the 2013 Oscar-winning sci-fi flick Gravity.
That approachability is quite an accomplishment in itself.
When we meet at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills last October, she's in a very pretty Elie Saab dress - "It's really tight and (I'm) sucking it all in right now" - and she still looks like she did 20 years ago, despite the fact that she's 51.
Bullock is a pro at interviews.
The topic at hand is her new film Our Brand Is Crisis, which opens here tomorrow, but naturally the conversation veers to her increasingly interesting personal life - like her new boyfriend (photographer Bryan Randall) and then-rumoured second adopted baby (three-year-old girl Laila, whose official status was only confirmed last month).
But Bullock, who divorced her first and only husband Jesse James in 2010 after five years of marriage and who already has a six-year-old adopted son Louis, knows exactly how to deflect, not giving an inch on anything she considers private.
And she knows how to do it with humour, making you laugh and never taking offence at a question.
In Our Brand Is Crisis, she plays 'Calamity' Jane Bodine, a brilliant political strategist in self-imposed retirement after being badly defeated by her professional nemesis Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton).
She is persuaded to return to the game when a Bolivian politician wants to hire her to help him win the presidential election, and she finds out that Candy is working for the opposition.
Produced by Bullock's good pal and fellow Hollywood star George Clooney, the role was originally written for a man, but Clooney was easily convinced to change the gender when Bullock asked for the part.
What interested you about the role?
I had a really wonderful experience on another film (Gravity), and I didn't want to run out and find another job because I was so satisfied with the one that I just finished. I wanted to be a mum for a while.
I wasn't reading anything I felt like leaving home for, and I said, "Let's look at what unproduced films are out there that were written for men".
And then George's little project showed up and I said, "Would you guys be willing to change the role?", and they said, "Sure".
Your character is called Calamity Jane as she is good in a crisis. How good are you at handling crises, especially when it comes to your son?
I don't sweat the big stuff. I sweat the small stuff, like why is the lasagna not in the oven and the fish is in the oven when I had this night planned out?
I think I do really well in crises. With a six-year-old, there's not much that's going to happen that's going to upset me, as long as he's healthy and uninjured.
I almost took him to the hospital two days ago. We play this game with a big ball and he likes to run in the yard and I have to nail him with it. I nailed him and he tripped on a piece of dead grass and he literally hit (the ground) so badly I went, "Oh my God, I've just broken his arm and his ankle".
But he was fine. There's not much that he can do that will send me into a bad place. He's a pretty cool kid.
What do you think your own brand is?
I think whatever brand I might be is someone else taking what essence of me they need to sell something.
In situations like this, I'm here to sell a movie. I'm an actor so I guess that's a brand.
I've been lucky in that when I decided I was done doing a certain type of role in the film business, I stopped and I tried to do other things so I wouldn't only be that brand.
I try to run away from whatever brand is really sticking so I don't get pigeonholed too much.
I would like to just be branded as Louis' mum. If my son at the end of my life says, "You were a great mum", that's all I care about.
Has your life changed since turning 50?
I don't see any negatives yet.
I was so glad I got there because I was like, "I'm finally here now, everyone just get off my back".
I don't care any more about so many things that I cared about when I was 30.
And it makes me really care and focus on the few things that I absolutely love and adore.
I know a lot more. I've learned a lot. Not naive any more in areas that I was naive in and I just feel really grateful and happy.
What kind of baggage have you left behind?
Honestly, it's all the things that I took on that really had no relevance to me.
It's like all the things you're supposed to be, how you're supposed to look, how you're supposed to act.
I didn't value my own worth. I didn't value my own journey. I had a lot of self-doubt.
What comes with age is, there are some things you are not going to get back, there are some things that are inevitable, and if you fight it you're going to be miserable.
I like Sandy a lot better now than I did 20, 30 years ago, so I would not go back because I was not as happy with what I have and what I don't have as I am today.
Is that age? I don't know. Is that good therapy? Sure, some of it has to do with it.
Your friend George Clooney said he wouldn't ever get married and he did.
Yeah I know, and he messed it up for me. Now I'm standing by myself holding up the flag going, "You don't need to be married".
So would you ever consider it?
I want to say never, but then I get in trouble when I say that.
I don't see any need for it for myself. I might be drugged at a later date (laughs). I might go to Vegas. I might do something silly that I don't recall.
So (marriage) could very easily happen.
I honestly don't know. I don't think about it.
What are your thoughts on the hot topic of gender inequality in Hollywood?
The subject of women and equality is on the top of all the lists right now, but my question isn't so much of equal pay as it is why are we still thought of as "less than" because I'm a woman.
Why isn't someone standing up and saying, "That exists, put the hammer on that the same way we're trying to put the hammer on racism or against homophobia?"
It feels new I think because of the (Sony) hacking scandal, because a pay difference was outed. We can't sweep things under the carpet any more.
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