January 17, 2014 11:32am PT by Scott Feinberg
Sandra Bullock on 'Gravity' Oscar Nom: 'I've Just Gotten Better at Not Picking Crap'
Sandra Bullock is just a few months shy of turning 50, an age by which most film actresses have long ago been put out to pasture. But, as she quipped at an awards show earlier this season, "I don't want to go to pasture -- it's cold, and I'm allergic to grass and the cows are mean!"
And so she has refused to go.
On Thursday morning, minutes after it was announced that Bullock had scored her second best actress Oscar nomination in four years, for Gravity, I hopped on the phone with her for the most recent of many conversations we have had over the course of this awards season, partly to get her reaction to the news (she was happy, duh), but also to get a sense of how she feels about her success and place in the industry.
"I don't think I'm fully awake yet, so I don't think I'm processing it," Bullock said of the news, which she learned as she was getting her son ready for preschool. "I was already up because allergy season has hit the little people in the house." She continued, "I know how to process the bad. I never know how to process the good. I think it's just so overwhelming that you sort of shut down a little bit. This business is so wonderful and so crazy and so unexpected. Even those people that have been nominated more times than I can count [probably a reference to Meryl Streep, who has been nominated for best actress both times that Bullock has] will probably say the same thing: You don't expect it, you don't assume it and it's just sweet."
Bullock, like only two of the other four nominees in her category this year -- Amy Adams (American Hustle) and Judi Dench (Philomena), not Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) or Streep (August: Osage County) -- received a nomination for a film that was also nominated for best picture, which sweetened the day even further for her.
When she brought this up, I reminded her of a stat that I had unearthed and shared with her at a luncheon in New York late last year: A nomination for Gravity would mean that she had starred in four best picture Oscar nominees within a span of just nine years -- Crash (2005), The Blind Side (2009) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) -- something that only a very elite group of other leading ladies have ever done: Jean Arthur, Anne Baxter, Ingrid Bergman, Blanchett, Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Greer Garson, Katharine Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, Myrna Loy, Agnes Moorehead, Ginger Rogers, Streep, Elizabeth Taylor and Emma Thompson.
"I remember your stat at the table, yes!" she laughed. I suggested that it proves that she brings out the best in the people around her -- "or," she interrupted self-deprecatingly, "that I've just gotten better at not picking crap. I think the latter is true."
Bullock says that her experience with Gravity was, in certain ways, "oddly similar" to her experience with The Blind Side, the film for which she received her first best actress Oscar nom (and win) four years ago -- even if one movie is an epic space-set thriller and the other is a family drama: "The Blind Side was out of left field, if I may use another sports pun. We made that movie quietly and no one paid attention. No one, I don't think, in the whole world, expected it to do what it did. That was completely unexpected. Like with The Blind Side, when we made Gravity, no one knew what we were making, no one knew if it would work and, up to the first couple of screenings, I don't think there were hopes of this film turning into anything. You didn't get the sense that, 'Oh, we have this piece that's Academy worthy!' You know? In both cases, you weren't setting yourself up for anything other than just being a part of making a movie and then going on with life. [In the case of Gravity], everyone was panicked to just create and figure out this technology, and 'Are we getting the right story?'"
But, as the second phase of her second awards season begins, Bullock has a better sense of what she's in for. "How is it different? It's four years later. I hope I'm a little wiser. But I'm not any less panicked. I still don't feel like I'm in the right place at the right time -- ever. I don't ever feel like anything good is gonna come my way in the work world. Now [having learned of her nomination], I go, 'What's gonna take me down a notch today? What's the bad thing that's gonna happen that's gonna level this all out?' That's just my morbid way of thinking!"
But she is trying to be more positive, and one of the things for which she is grateful is the terrific company she has in the best actress category. "It's a beautiful group," she says, "and all incredibly cool women." Bullock elaborated, "We all know each other from the non-work environment. You just see each other at these things, where you feel like cattle, at times. And people want to make it such a till death competition. That's not the way we feel. You know, it is what it is. We've all had the experience of a great year with work that we obviously love. Some of us see each other at preschool dropping off our children, and we both look like hell, and we both have on sweatpants, and we give each other a squeeze. I know that the competition needs to be there because that drums up interest, but it's not there when the women are in the room. We know what this is, and we just are really excited for everybody. It's nice, I gotta say. It's apples and oranges at this point. You can't compete, nor do we want to."
So what will Bullock do over the coming days and weeks? "We'll do what all women do, which is roll our eyes and dread the fact that we have to do a fitting for a dress that someone will make fun of and might be a little too tight and painful and then all you want to do is come home and take a shower and take your shoes off. Do you see how hard it is?!" she says with the famous Bullock laugh. "People just don't understand!"
More seriously, she says, she'll just try to remember to be grateful. "I love what I do. I love that I have multiple personalities that want to be in multiple genres of film. That doesn't always bode well when you want a serious career, but I've never worried about that, you know? At this time in my life, I've been really, really lucky, in that when I wanted to stop one thing and experience something else, people let me. [Such as starring in comedies, such as The Heat, in between dramas, such as The Blind Side and Gravity.] You know, you don't always get that opportunity. It's really hard to break out of one thing. I just stopped doing too much and started just doing what I really, really, really loved, whether it was comedy and drama, and somehow I got here. I don't know how, but here I am, and I'm not taking any of it for granted."