Bullock’s career speeds ahead

ShoWest Female Star of the Year

Bullock’s B.O.
“I feel like going to Disneyland!” jokes Sandra Bullock about winning ShoWest 2001’s Female Star of the Year award. “Actually, it’s really nice. Especially now that I know what the theater owners do for your career and how they’re responsible for getting your film out there.”

The 36-year-old actress will be honored at a March 8 awards gala during the annual Las Vegas trade show. This is her second ShoWest honor in the last five years. In a winter crop of Oscar heavyweights, Bullock’s beauty pageant comedy “Miss Congeniality” was a surprise hit, netting over $100 million.

“I was really pleased and surprised,” says Bullock. “Comedy is so specific to each individual. It’s all in what you get and how perverse you are. And physical comedy was something I’ve always wanted to do.”

In the film, Bullock plays Gracie Hart, a frumpy FBI agent who goes undercover as a beauty pageant contestant to stop a mysterious assassin. In order to learn about all things pageant, she enlists the help of a gay pageant consultant (Michael Caine) who also assists her in catching the eye of her clueless co-worker (Benjamin Bratt).

Asked to explain the film’s success, Bullock says, “I think ‘Pygmalion’ stories are always fascinating to people. It doesn’t matter how many times we see it, we love watching transformations because that’s the whole fantasy element of film.”

She also says the movie was her ode to favorite screwball heroines Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Madeline Kahn.

“Maybe it’s just that you have to be a redhead,” adds Bullock. “They all just had that timing and that unabashed fearlessness to find the most comedic moment without caring how they looked in the process.

“That’s the most freeing thing to be able to do. If I can achieve what they do on any level, that would be fantastic. But right now, I’m really satisfied with stealing.

“If you didn’t find me funny, there’s Michael Caine and William Shatner,” she continues. “By the time we were done, we realized there was something for everyone in the film. I don’t know if you want to call it luck or just good preparation.”

Like many actors, Bullock has also gone behind the scenes; “Miss Congeniality” is her second producer credit.

Last year, with her production company Fortis Films (fortis is Latin for “strength), she produced her first film “Gun Shy,” in support of her friend writer-director Eric Blakeney.

“Truthfully, it was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever had doing a movie,” Bullock says. “But it was the best lesson. I became so — no pun intended — gun-shy that now I’m overly cautious going into everything. It was the best schooling I could have asked for.”

Bullock has an array of diverse projects slated for year.

First up, she’ll be seen in as-yet-untitled psychological thriller directed by Barbet Schroeder for Castle Rock and Warner Bros., in which she plays a small-town forensic detective investigating a murder who crosses paths with two dangerous high school students. The film co-stars Ryan Gosling as one of the troubled teens and is getting a rewrite from Henry Bean, who last partnered on the Sundance award-winner “The Believer.”

“The film parallels what’s been happening in the news lately like Dartmouth and Columbine,” says Bullock. “It’s really about how affluent children are becoming killers.”

Also in the works is an as-yet untitled romantic comedy by the “Runaway Bride” writing team; “Nicholas Cricket,” an animated feature for Warner Bros.; and a film from first-time writer-director Cal Bergeson. On the latter two, Bullock will only produce.

“Actresses are always pushed aside when they want to get into producing,” she says. “But when Jodie Foster started doing it, all of a sudden it shifted things for people. They saw how great she was at her job. She’s incredibly intelligent, energetic and she chooses strong material.”

For now, Bullock loves acting and producing equally, but she does admit to having a favorite part of the process.

“Post-production,” she says. “The mixing, the music, the reshoots, the previews. It’s like this really complicated puzzle that makes absolutely no sense. And when you have the preview, you’re sitting there going, ‘Oh my God. Is this going to work? I didn’t think it was funny.’ And then the audience laughs and you go, ‘I don’t know what we did but something worked.’

“It’s such a crap shoot. It’s magic, but when you’re involved with it and the trick actually works, of course you’re going to take all the credit for it. I have no problem taking credit for everything.”

BULLOCK AT THE BOX OFFICE

2000’s “Miss Congeniality” recently ranks as Sandra Bullock’s third-highest domestic grosser.
Title (studio, year)
Domestic B.O.*

Speed (Fox, ’94)
121

A Time to Kill (WB, ’96)
109

Miss Congeniality (WB/Village Roadshow, ’00)+ (also producer)
103

The Prince of Egypt (DreamWorks, ’98)
101

While You Were Sleeping (BV, ’95)
81

Hope Floats (Fox, ’98) (also exec producer)
60

Demolition Man (WB, ’93)
58

Forces of Nature (DreamWorks, ’99)
53

The Net (Sony, ’95)
51

Speed 2: Cruise Control (Fox, ’97)
49

Practical Magic (WB/Village Roadshow, ’98)
47

28 Days (Sony, ’00)
37

The Vanishing (Fox, ’93)
15

In Love and War (New Line, ’96)
14

Two If By Sea (WB, ’96)
11

Gun Shy (BV, ’00) (also exec producer)
1.6

The Thing Called Love (Par, ’93)
1.0

Love Potion #9 (Fox, ’92)
0.8

Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (WB, ’93)
0.3

Me and the Mob (Arrow, ’94) 0.006
0.006

When the Party’s Over (Strand, ’93)

0.004

Who Shot Patakango (Castle Hill, ’92)

0.002

TOTAL DOMESTIC B.O. 914
$914 million

+still in release
*in millions of $

Source: ACNielsen, EDI/Variety

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