Sandra Bullock: Just Really Happy To Be Nominated She had one of the year's biggest flops — and two of its solid hits. Now actress and producer Sandra Bullock is basking in the glow of an Oscar nomination for her performance in the drama The Blind Side. She tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that it's a good place to be.
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Sandra Bullock: Just Really Happy To Be Nominated

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Sandra Bullock: Just Really Happy To Be Nominated

Sandra Bullock: Just Really Happy To Be Nominated

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One of the biggest surprises of last year's box office and this year's Oscar season is a small movie about football, family and Christian faith. "The Blind Side" is based on the true story of a white family from Memphis, the Tuohys, who take in an African-American teenager who had no place to live.

It's earned Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Actress for the star, Sandra Bullock, who in this scene from the film meets the teenaged Michael Oher for the first time. It's a winter night, and Michael called Big Mike is dressed only in a shirt and shorts.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Blind Side")

Ms. SANDRA BULLOCK (Actor): (as Leigh Ann Tuohy) Big Mike, hey, my name's Leigh Ann Tuohy. My kids go to Wingate. You said you were going to the gym. School gym's closed. Why were you going to the gym?

Mr. QUINTON AARON (Actor): (as Michael Oher) Because it - it's warm.

Ms. BULLOCK: (as Leigh Ann Tuohy) Do you have any place to stay tonight? Don't you dare lie to me. Come on.

WERTHEIMER: Michael Oher grew up to play professional football for the Baltimore Ravens. Sandra Bullock joins us now to talk about "The Blind Side," and her Oscar nomination. Welcome to the program.

Ms. BULLOCK: Hi, thank you.

WERTHEIMER: First of all, what about this character who's based on a very real woman, Leigh Ann Tuohy? Tell us about the character.

Ms. BULLOCK: Oh, it's like asking someone to describe a, you know, the soul. Leigh Ann Tuohy just - I still don't know how to describe her. She just has this energy that that doesn't allow her to stop doesn't care what prisoners she takes in her quest to do what she wants to do.

And and it's actually a good thing, because she puts that energy to good places, and she offends some people along the way, but too bad. People need to get out of her way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BULLOCK: And so like when you read a character like that in a script, as I did, you often think that it was made up or sort of turned into a caricature just to make a movie. And and that's why, I think, for the longest time, I kept saying no, because I didn't know how to play this woman. And then I met her and realized she is that person that I read on the script, if not more.

WERTHEIMER: Is that how you found your way into the role and into her life by meeting her and experiencing what it would be like to be

Ms. BULLOCK: ...this woman.

WERTHEIMER: Leigh Ann Tuohy?

Ms. BULLOCK: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think I spent over half a year just saying no to the project, and finally the director just said, you know, why don't you just come meet Leigh Ann and you'll understand why I can't describe her. I found myself near Memphis, and I said well, I'll stop by and I did.

And spent maybe eight hours with her, and, you know, 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, because you don't want to be on Leigh Ann Tuohy's bad side.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BULLOCK: And I think, like about a month later, I was scared enough to sort of say, you know, if I'm going to do this, I need to be able to prepare for it and have to just allow me the time with my great dialects coach and 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.

WERTHEIMER: We have another clip from the movie, which gives you an impression of - of what Leigh Ann can be like. She interrupts Michael's football practice to give him some advice.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Blind Side")

Ms. BULLOCK: (as Leigh Ann Tuohy) Do you remember when we first met and we went to that horrible part of town to buy those dreadful clothes? And I was a little bit scared, and you told me not to worry about it because you had my back. Do you remember that?

Mr. AARON: (as Michael Oher) Yes, ma'am.

Ms. BULLOCK: (as Leigh Ann Tuohy) Team is your family, Michael. You have to protect them from those guys, okay? Listen. Tony, here is your quarterback. All right? You protect his blind side. When you look at him, you think of me. How you had my back. How you have his. Okay?

WERTHEIMER: Now when she does this, she grabs the quarterback by the front of his jersey and drags him over to the conversation.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BULLOCK: Yeah, that's Leigh Ann. I mean, none of that is exaggerated. She just is unafraid. She'll grab me by the face if she needs to. And and when I first met her, the next thing I knew she was taking me into the school where that high school was. And they were in class. And she literally barged into the principal's office, who was obviously having a very important meeting.

No knocking, she just made her way in there and then proceeded to go and interrupt her son's Bible class to introduce me to her son. And the school literally parted like the Red Sea. And, you know, I'm overly cautious about everything, and she is not about anything, and that's why she gets things done.

WERTHEIMER: Your career, you've made lots of films in which you play physical comedy very well, most recently in "The Proposal." You played an unlikable character which, you know, everybody thought was totally against type in "Crash."

Ms. BULLOCK: Or totally type and I've just kept it hidden. Yeah, it could be that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Well, so - but the character in "The Blind Side," was it really that much of a reach? I mean, it's sort of Sandra Bullock being smart and Southern and sassy, and we've seen that before.

Ms. BULLOCK: Well, I mean, - you know, if it was easy for me to get to, I was taking the long road there, you know, I spent three months panicking of how to make this something I wouldn't get raked over the coals for.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BULLOCK: You know, you just go, you just have to dive in and commit 100 percent, as I do in most things and, you know, if I'm going to mess up, I like to mess up big.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now, you had great success with two movies last year and a flop with the movie, "All About Steve."

Ms. BULLOCK: Oh, come on, it's not a flop.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BULLOCK: It was nominated for Razzie, and I keep telling people it's it's beyond - people just don't understand it right now. In about 10 years it'll start catching on, and

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: And it'll be a...

Ms. BULLOCK:'ll be a huge success.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BULLOCK: know, not everything has to be immediate.

WERTHEIMER: What about, I mean, you're a big star, so you know, you're kind of, you're in control. You've - you've...

Ms. BULLOCK: Oh, you're never in control. That - that is the greatest fallacy of the - you know, there's over 200 people that it requires to make a film. And there's people who are in control of how you look, what your performance is, what takes are used, what - you're only in control of how you say no. That's what I've learned, and I had a hard time saying no for the longest time.

And 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 cast mate, you know, a writer, all have the control to to lead you down a path where all the elements come together. Or where they splinter off and something doesn't click and there's no control.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BULLOCK: I'd like to have it. There's just no control.

WERTHEIMER: So thanks to "The Blind Side" and this nomination. What do you think of your chances?

Ms. BULLOCK: You know what? I don't care.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BULLOCK: I'm just you get to this point, and its five completely different women and five completely different performances, and, and how can you pick? Someone's going take a trophy home, and the other four of us are going to be really happy for the person who took it home.

You know, everyone says, you know, I'm just happy to be nominated. And, you know, I wasn't sure if that was genuine, until now here I am, after all these years. And, you know what? I'm I'm just really happy to be nominated.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: Sandra Bullock - she's nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for "The Blind Side" and for a Golden Raspberry Award, or Razzie, for Worst Performance in "All about Steve." You can hear more of our interview with Sandra Bullock at

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