October 6, 2013

Sandra Bullock on ‘Gravity,’ Oscars and motherhood

The Oscar winner lost in space, in a good place

By Barry Koltnow
Mcclatchy Newspapers

Once you see “Gravity,” Sandra Bullock seems the logical choice to play a NASA medical engineer stranded in space and running out of oxygen after her shuttle is destroyed.

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This publicity photo released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Sandra Bullock, left, as Dr. Ryan Stone in “Gravity." (AP Photo/Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

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This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows a scene from "Gravity." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Additional Photos Below

But how did director Alfonso Cuaron, who also co-wrote the film with son Jonas, know that Bullock was the right actress for the role?

Sure, she won an Oscar for “The Blind Side,” but does that qualify her to carry an entire movie set in space? It couldn’t have been “The Heat,” the comedy hit she starred in earlier this year with Melissa McCarthy. And we’re guessing that “Miss Congeniality” and “While You Were Sleeping” probably didn’t seal the deal.

“The short answer is connectivity,” explained Cuaron, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2006 film “Children of Men.”

“There are great actors whose magic is lost when filtered through the camera lens. Cameras adore certain people, and Sandra is one of them. That’s why she is a movie star. And after auditioning many unknowns, we decided that we needed a movie star because we had to have someone who the audience could invest in for such a long time. They needed to connect to her character.

“But finding the right movie star was the key,” he added. “Movie stars don’t usually like to leave their comfort zone. Why mess with success? And Sandra is fantastic doing dialogue and this is a role with very little dialogue. But she wanted to get out of her comfort zone. She wanted to go to those deep, dark corners that most movie stars run away from. She was up for anything, even the Vomit Comet.”

The Vomit Comet is a special plane that simulates zero gravity in 20-second bursts by plunging toward Earth. Bullock, 49, will not only describe her fear of the Vomit Comet, but will tell us how she felt when she learned that Cuaron didn’t reveal to her that he had decided that the Vomit Comet limited filming too much, and that he would film everything on enormous movie sets in London.

Q. Had you crossed space movies off your bucket list?

A. There was never a space movie on my bucket list. I’ve never had a bucket list. And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that. Why don’t I have a bucket list?

Q. And the answer is?

A. I realized that, in a beautiful way, anything that I’ve ever wished for, I’ve gotten. So I never needed a list.

Q. So, there was never a list of things that you wanted to do that you hadn’t done before?

A. In terms of work, I only wanted to do what the men were getting opportunities to do. I wanted roles that were as multi-faceted as men were getting. Every woman in this business felt that way for a long time. Not before the 1980s, of course. There were many opportunities before that. Roles for women seemed varied and exciting. But, recently, things shifted a bit.

Q. How did that shift manifest itself in how you worked?

A. Every time I got a role, I’d think how I could make it better, how I could make it more complex or how I could make it funnier. I didn’t want to just play the wife or the girlfriend.

Q. Things seem to have shifted back again. Was there a tipping point?

A. In comedy, I think it was “Bridesmaids.” And that came about because of (“Saturday Night Live”). The women of “SNL” and the Groundlings broke the ground. They did it step by step by step. If they hadn’t done what they did, there never would have been a “Bridesmaids,” or a “The Heat.”

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Sandra Bullock, left and below, as Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Matt Kowalsky in “Gravity.”

Warner Bros. photos

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This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Sandra Bullock in a scene from "Gravity." Bullock says making the lost-in-space movie directed by Alfonso Cuaron was her “best life decision” ever. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

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This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Sandra Bullock in a scene from "Gravity." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

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This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows George Clooney in a scene from "Gravity." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)


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