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A bonanza year for Sandra Bullock

Golden Globe nods for 'The Proposal' and 'The Blind Side' cap a year in which commercial and critical success has marked a turnaround from recent misfires. Could an Oscar nomination be next?

December 16, 2009|By Rachel Abramowitz

Is 45 the new 25?

Maybe, if you consider the career of Sandra Bullock, who this year pulled in the biggest box office bonanza of her career, powering both the romantic comedy "The Proposal" ($163 million domestically) and the inspirational sports drama "The Blind Side" ($150 million and counting). On Tuesday, the films also earned Bullock, a perennial audience favorite, double Golden Globe nominations -- one each for lead actress in a comedy film and a drama film -- giving her a legitimate shot at her first Oscar nomination.

Bullock has company in the double-laurel category with frequent Golden Globe contender Meryl Streep, who was nominated for her performance as a happy divorcee in "It's Complicated" and as chef Julia Child in "Julie & Julia," and Matt Damon, who received nods for his work in "The Informant!" and "Invictus."

Yet for Bullock, the nominations cap a year in which her commercial and critical success has marked a turnaround from some of her more recent misfires -- "The Lake House," "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous." None of which Bullock allows herself to follow too closely.

Just days before the nominations were announced, the actress noted that she doesn't usually bother to even read reviews, "because they're usually bad, because of the films I like to make. I like to make what I like to make, and if I read how badly I'm talked about, I might change my direction.

"For that same reason, I can't look at the good. I saw a quote the other day -- I sat there and I thought I would cry. I'm overwhelmed that someone would say something that nice. And I said, for that reason, I must shut this off. It caught me off-guard."

Bullock first burst into stardom driving a bus loaded with explosives in the 1994 action hit "Speed" and quickly developed a popular following for her unpretentious air and her facility for comedy. Hit after hit followed with such light fare as "While You Were Sleeping" and the original "Miss Congeniality." When she proved adept at a rare dramatic turn in the 2006 Oscar winner "Crash," critics took little notice.

Hollywood largely perceived Bullock as being on the downward slope of her career because of her age and the less successful films that followed. The actress was not even the first choice for either of Tuesday's nominated roles -- Julia Roberts first passed on "The Proposal" and also expressed no interest in "The Blind Side" after receiving that script.

Few recognized what a cultural phenomenon "The Blind Side" would be, playing to packed audiences, particularly in the South. Twentieth Century Fox passed on making it, and Bullock herself initially had reservations about taking the lead role.

In the John Lee Hancock film, based on a true story, Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a fiery Southerner who adopts a homeless black teen and eventually nurtures him to become a star football player.

Hancock says Bullock expressed reservations about the part because Tuohy "is impossible to define easily" but agreed after meeting the real-life woman. "It's the hardest thing I will ever do. And because of that, I should do it," Hancock says Bullock told him.

The filmmaker says that initial fear is exactly what forces many actors to abandon a role rather than dive into it. But the actress told him it was consistent with her confident worldview. "Some of the best things in my life," Hancock recalls the actress telling him, "are the very things I first said no to."

In a statement released after her nominations, Bullock sounded characteristically excited and self-deprecating: "I am beyond stunned. Just to be included in the company of these amazing women I have so admired through the years has left me slack-jawed with awe."

Times staff writer John Horn and freelance writer Gina Piccalo contributed to this report.

rachel.abramowitz@ latimes.com

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