Sandra Bullock: Just Really Happy To Be Nominated

Sandra Bullock portrait i i

A Good Year: Sandra Bullock had a summer hit with The Proposal and a surprise holiday-season smash with The Blind Side — which so far has earned her a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Kevin Winter/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Sandra Bullock portrait

A Good Year: Sandra Bullock had a summer hit with The Proposal and a surprise holiday-season smash with The Blind Side — which so far has earned her a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

One of the biggest surprises at last year's box office — and of the current Oscar season — is a small movie about football, family and faith. Based on the book by Michael Lewis, The Blind Side is about a white Memphis family that takes in a black teenager who has no place to live.

It's a true story — that of Michael Oher, a tall, quiet teen who would grow up to be a Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle — and it has earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Actress, the latter for Sandra Bullock, who stars as the prosperous, pushy Leigh Ann Tuohy.

But don't ask the actress about her awards-night prospects.

"You know what? I don't care," Bullock tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "I'm just — You get to this point, and it's five completely different women and five completely different performances, and how can you pick? Someone's gonna take a trophy home, and the other four of us are gonna be really happy for the person who took it home. Y'know, everyone says 'I'm just happy to be nominated,' and I wasn't sure if that was genuine, until now, here I am, after all these years. And I'm just really happy to be nominated."

'I Spent Three Months Panicking'

So, better to ask the actress to describe the woman she plays?

"Oh, that's like asking someone to describe a soul," Bullock sighs. "I still don't know how to describe her. She just has this energy that doesn't allow her to stop — doesn't care what prisoners she takes in her quest to do what she wants to do."

W: Aaron and Bullock in 'The Blind Side'

Goal-Oriented: "I'm overly cautious about everything," Bullock says of the real-life woman she portrays in The Blind Side. "And she — she is not about anything. And that's why she gets things done." hide caption

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She manhandles quarterbacks and sasses football coaches. She barges in on school principals. "She'll grab me by the face if she needs to," Bullock says.

In most people, that sort of bullheadedness might be destructive. With Tuohy, the actress insists, it's a good thing.

"She puts that energy to good places," Bullock says. "And she offends some people along the way, but too bad. People need to get out of her way."

Still, coming to grips with a character that singular wasn't easy. On the page, Bullock remembers, Tuohy's idiosyncrasies made her seem like a screenwriter's invention — a bossy Southern evangelical caricature.

"For the longest time, I kept saying no," Bullock says. " 'Cause I didn't know how to play this woman. And then I met her and realized she is that person I read in the script — if not more."

A brief get-acquainted stop in Memphis turned into an eight-hour visit.

Interview Extra

Bullock tells Linda Wertheimer why it's good for an actor to have interests outside Hollywood — and what her own extracurricular passion is:

"I was intimidated by her, I was intrigued by her, and by the end of the day I wanted to make sure that I left on her good side," Bullock says. "Because you don't want to be on Leigh Ann Tuohy's bad side."

Soon the actress had committed to the project — with conditions.

"I was scared enough to say, 'If I'm going to do this, I need to be able to prepare for it enough. ... Let me get to a place where I can make Leigh Ann Tuohy real, rather than someone who's this cartoon version of a Steel Magnolia, which I think it easily could have become."

And to those who think smart and Southern and sassy isn't too far from Bullock's comfort zone, the actress has this to say:

"If it was easy for me to get to, I was taking the long road to get there. I spent three months panicking about how to make this something I wouldn't get raked over the coals for."

'I'd Like To Mess Up Big'

"If I'm gonna mess up, I'd like to mess up big," Bullock says. She means that she likes to throw herself wholeheartedly into a project, once she has decided to take it on. But it's hard not to hear that line as a commentary on All About Steve, the off-key comedy that flopped hard last September, between her twin successes with The Proposal and The Blind Side.

Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper in 'All About Steve' i i

They Can Laugh Now: With an Oscar nomination for her and a Hangover sequel in the works for him, Bullock and co-star Bradley Cooper can probably afford a rueful chuckle over All About Steve. Suzanne Tenner/20th Century Fox hide caption

itoggle caption Suzanne Tenner/20th Century Fox
Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper in 'All About Steve'

They Can Laugh Now: With an Oscar nomination for her and a Hangover sequel in the works for him, Bullock and co-star Bradley Cooper can probably afford a rueful chuckle over All About Steve.

Suzanne Tenner/20th Century Fox

"Come on, it's not a flop," she deadpans. "It was nominated for a Razzie."

"And I keep telling people, it's beyond — people just don't understand it right now. And in about 10 years it'll start catching on." She can't keep the poker face any longer, and a laugh erupts.

"It'll be a huge success," she says wryly. "Not everything has to be immediate."

As the star and producer of All About Steve, Bullock has taken her share of darts — and she's a big girl, so she's able to laugh about it. But the truth, she reminds Wertheimer, is that even a name star has limited control over the end product on a Hollywood movie shoot.

"You're never in control," she says. "That is the greatest fallacy. There are over 200 people that it requires to make a film" — the director, the cinematographer, the film editor, hair and makeup and more, all making decisions about what angle an actor is shot from, how she's lit, what takes are used, what look a performer has on a given day.

"You're only in control of how you say no," Bullock says. "And I had a hard time saying no for the longest time. Once you learn how to say no, that's about the only place that you'll have control of your work and what you do. But otherwise, an editor, a director, a cinematographer, a castmate — they all have the control to lead you down a path where all the elements come together, or where they splinter off and something doesn't click. There is no control. I'd like to have it, but there is just no control."

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