Earlier than she emerged as one of many powerhouse actress/producers of her technology, Sandra Bullock made us take discover in Velocity (1994), the place she stole the present from co-stars Keanu Reeves, Jeff Daniels, and Dennis Hopper. It appeared like she got here out of nowhere, however Bullock had paid dues for years. And because the little one of performers—each mother and father had been opera singers—she was already skilled past her years when Chris Chase caught up together with her for the November 1994 concern of Cosmo. —Alex Belth, Hearst historian
Sandra Bullock, one of many stars of the hit film Velocity, is sitting on the ground scarfing down cheese and crackers and ingesting a Weight-reduction plan Coke. “If I’ve received cheese on me, simply let me know,” she says.
She is carrying striped cotton pants and a white T-shirt, each completely cheese-free, and he or she might be the one actress ever despatched to New York Metropolis to do publicity who requested to have her lodge lodging downgraded. “I imply they gave me the upstairs ground of this place, and I’m like, What am I going to do? Throw a celebration for 4 hundred?”
Now, in additional modest quarters, she’s content material. “You understand what’s nice about New York? You don’t must drive. Like final evening, after a tremendously lengthy photograph shoot, I simply needed to odor issues, and it was so good strolling. Some man’s promoting incense, persons are yelling at one another. And I used to be pondering, I complain so much, I all the time need extra, however carpe diem. Proper now, carpe diem.”
In Latin or English, she is seizing the day. Her subsequent image, Whereas You Had been Sleeping, is ready in Brooklyn; and he or she hopes will probably be shot within the East. “The very first thing I might do is take the cash they offer you to stay off—they’re very beneficiant—put a deposit on an previous loft downtown, and begin sanding. By the point the image was achieved, I’d have a terrific place.”
On the age of twenty-seven, Bullock is extra sensible than lots of her friends. It’s been reported that she’ll make $1.2 million for Whereas You Had been Sleeping, a rumor she doesn’t deny however is barely defensive about. “Someone as soon as stated, ‘Present me a terrific artist, and I’ll present you a awful businesswoman.’ I don’t need to be stupidly taking a look at a contract and saying, ‘Okay, I’ll signal it,’ and later realizing I’ve nothing. So I’ve compelled myself to be very good businesswise. After I’m previous and grey, who’s going to maintain me? No one however me.
“My mom instilled that in me and my sister. ‘Make your personal method, as a result of what if you’re married to somebody and abruptly he dies? Or he leaves you? You don’t want a person to get the place you need to go. Make your personal cash, get your personal profession collectively, after which in case you occur to fulfill a terrific man, you’ll meet him on degree.’”
Bullock’s mom is German-born, her father comes from Alabama, and so they met—presumably on degree—in Germany. “My father had a civilian job with the Pentagon, and my mom was his secretary. They’re each mavericks. My dad was the youngest of eight kids; he labored as a blacksmith to get to Julliard to grow to be an opera singer. My mom’s mom was widowed with three women to lift, and my mom—like my father—stated, ‘I’m going to be an opera singer.’
“She’s this hot-looking chick with a German accent, he’s this good ole Southern boy, and so they’re each artists. It’s neat now that I’m an grownup, however as a baby, it was ‘Why can’t you be regular folks? Why do it’s important to be opera singers?’ No one in our neighborhood—we lived in Arlington, Virginia—was an opera singer. When different children would hear the teachings happening in the home, it was so embarrassing. My sister and I might suppose, Please, are you able to tone it down a little bit? We needed them banned to the closet.”
Helga Bullock was away from house so much. “My mom’s profession was doing nicely in Austria and Germany, and my father stated, ‘Go do the opera season; I’ll be right here educating.’ She would take me and my sister together with her—the opera is a superb baby-sitting service. In nearly any opera, there’s a gypsy little one within the background. That was my half. My mom would shove me upstage and say, ‘Keep there.’
“It solely grew to become tough once I hit like twelve and 13. It was onerous to return again to the States and attempt to match into junior excessive. Being 13 is tough anyway, and right here I used to be, not being the identical as all people else, and my mom needed to maintain me unique. She was telling me, ‘You don’t want to adapt.’ However to be accepted, you wanted to adapt, and I used to be indignant as a result of she didn’t perceive and since I didn’t need to journey anymore.”
From the beginning, Bullock knew she needed to be within the theater, however when it got here time for school, she enrolled in East Carolina College. “My father would have most popular a college of the humanities, however I needed to go to a spot that was regular, the place there have been boys, the place I might hang around and go to soccer video games and develop up. I used to be not able to be thrown right into a extremely aggressive scenario.”
4 years later, she was prepared. “I left house at twenty-one. I simply stated, ‘I’m going to New York.’ There’s a lot concern of failure in me that if I feel an excessive amount of about one thing, I gained’t do it, so I form of do issues blindly. I packed up my little Honda Accord and my little canine and put all my junk within the hatchback, and I went. My mother and father had been supportive—they stated, ‘No matter you do, do it one hundred percent.’ They’d needed to battle as artists, they’d beat loads of odds, they anticipated no much less from me.”
In New York, she waitressed, which meant she wouldn’t starve, and he or she additionally had someplace to remain; her father saved an condominium in an previous prewar constructing the place he got here as soon as a month to provide singing classes. “It wasn’t plush,” she says, “however I don’t want loads of issues.”
In school, she’d drowned in method—“I used to be so busy working at my craft that I didn’t know find out how to use what I’d discovered”—and now she was decided to cease worrying about types and strategies. “I made a decision, I’m going to only barge in an audition. I’m going to do little unbiased NYU movies and discover ways to hit my mark. Backstage journal was my finest buddy. I did what all people else does after they get right here. You go to the cattle calls, you ship photos, you’re fortunate in the event that they name you again.
“And I made loads of errors. Simply barreling into casting places of work wasn’t so smart as a result of folks keep in mind. Later, I’d hear some casting director had stated, ‘I hate her work,’ and I’d have to return and re-audition. I’d say, ‘Look, I didn’t know what I used to be doing, however I needed to study by some means.’ There’s a lot rejection; in case you take it to coronary heart, you’re misplaced.”
Her first New York break got here off-Broadway, in a play referred to as No Time Flat. “I performed a Southern belle, and John Simon wrote one thing very nice about me. Individuals had been going, ‘What? John Simon?’ And that received me an agent. I didn’t know from reviewers. I used to be simply fortunate.”
In 1989, Bullock made two TV motion pictures, The Bionic Showdown and The Preppy Homicide, after which, regardless of her concern of L.A., she headed west and bunked with a buddy within the Valley. “I had a rent-a-wreck, and I’d drive over the canyons every single day to audition, and the automotive wouldn’t go greater than twenty miles an hour. So I’m sputtering up Bel Air Canyon, putt putt putt, and all these Jaguars are blowing their horns, and I’m like, Hey, I’m sorry, I’m simply attempting to make an trustworthy dwelling right here.”
In 1990, she labored, although many of the issues she labored in no one noticed. She received the lead—the Melanie Griffith half—in a TV collection primarily based on Working Lady, however the collection flopped; she additionally made a film referred to as Hearth on the Amazon, which rendered her a nervous wreck as a result of she needed to do a unadorned love scene, and he or she didn’t imagine the director’s promise to not present “any personal elements.” She masked her nipples with tape and threw up when the scene was over.
Ninety-one was even worse. “My season in hell,” Bullock has referred to as it. Virtually no jobs, aside from a film referred to as Love Potion No. 9, costarring her and Tate Donovan (they performed scientists—she had buck tooth and a mustache—who invent a drug that turns them into intercourse objects). The love potion labored on Bullock and Donovan (“Three and a half years, the identical man,” she says, “it’s partly loyalty and partly stubbornness”) however had no impact on the general public, which stayed house. So did Bullock, ready for her huge break and watching her meager saving evaporate.
In 1992, every part rotated. There was The Vanishing, with Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland, after which one wonderful afternoon, Bullock discovered she’d be forged in two new motion pictures, The Factor Known as Love and Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. She was nonetheless reeling from this when Joel Silver selected her to play reverse Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man.
Velocity was solely a heartbeat away. And Velocity did it. Bullock drove a bus—with a bomb on it—to fame and fortune. A critic for Rolling Stone stated she raced off with the image, including that she’d have been a star sooner if her earlier movies had solely been “much less dreary.”
She’s grateful for the praise however disagrees. “I like small, noncommercial movies. Wrestling Ernest Hemingway was lovely. Richard Harris and Robert Duvall performed these two previous guys on the finish of their lives. They’re on the loneliness street, and I performed a waitress who was lonely too, looking for her method. Randa Haines is an excellent director—she’s not afraid to let a scene play out quietly—and Shirley MacLaine was fantastic, and Piper Laurie was fantastic, and I hope folks hire it.
“The actors had been all so proficient, I might stroll on the set every single day with a silly grin on my face. Similar with The Factor Known as Love, on a youthful scale.”
The Factor Known as Love was the final image River Phoenix accomplished earlier than he died of a drug overdose. Had she seen any signal that he was in bother?
“I wouldn’t have recognized what to search for,” she say. “However generally you meet people who find themselves too good to deal with the dangerous on this world, and I really feel that’s what occurred with River. As an actor, he didn’t play something that wasn’t trustworthy, and in life, he was the identical. If he had one thing to say to you, he’d say it, even when it made you need to punch him. So many individuals BS, however I trusted him.”
Requested if she ever will get a crush on a fellow actor, she says, certain. “There are occasions while you come whistling to work. Crushes are fantastic—they make you are feeling such as you’re two years previous, and also you say the stupidest issues. However I don’t need to put myself ready the place I’m going to get in bother, so I spend all my time in my trailer.
“On The Factor Known as Love, my buddy Samantha Mathis was within the forged, and he or she thought I used to be so humorous. She would inform me she and River and Dermot Mulroney had been going out to dinner and I ought to come, and he or she say I might go, ‘No, no, I’ve to remain and browse; I’m studying.’
“I don’t exit to dinner, I am going the opposite method. And if I develop a crush, it’s quiet as quiet. I assume that everyone can see it, however like they are saying, give it two weeks.
“There’s loads of temptation on the market, however give it two weeks. By then, it’s Oh, nicely, he’s identical to all people else. He simply occurs to have inexperienced eyes.
“Chemistry is pure; you may’t deny it. When you have rapport with somebody, and it comes throughout on the display screen, there’s clearly an affection there, but it surely doesn’t imply you’re going to go off and have a torrid affair.”
Chemistry, she says, gained her the position in Velocity. “After Demolition Man, I didn’t need to do one other motion movie, however then I learn the script and I used to be like, Oh, man, no one ought to play this however me, so I agreed to go in and browse with Keanu Reeves. And there’s like fifteen different girls studying too, and you already know that whoever has one of the best rapport with Keanu goes to get the half.
“I believed he’d be this longhaired wild little one, however I received in there, and he was utterly remodeled. He was large, with a shaved heard. That took me aback—this was not the individual I’d thought he was. And once we learn collectively, there was such ease. I knew the studio needed a busty blonde with lengthy legs, however the director, Jan De Bont, fought for me, and I recognize that greater than he’ll ever know.”
There was a lot to understand. With a forty-million-dollar film comes perks. Free meals, free lodge rooms, free haircuts. And with that specific forty-million-dollar film got here nice evaluations and nice ticket gross sales.
After Velocity, Bullock took six months off. “I needed to attend for a terrific venture. That’s tough for an actor, since you get neurotic; you suppose you’ll by no means work once more. However I’d labored nineteen months straight. I had nothing recent to provide one other position, I used to be so burned out. Fortunately, I had my home. I purchased a extremely previous—1936—home up within the oldest canyon in Los Angeles and stripped it, restored it to the unique. It was one of the best factor for me, handbook labor saved me sane; it saved my thoughts off all of the psychological anguish I put myself via and put it on handbook anguish.
“My father buys previous locations and does them over, and he got here out, and he’d set up a rest room, and I’d tile the kitchen, and I’ve by no means been happier. I had bruised knuckles and scabbed knees, and buddies would invite me to dinner and say, ‘Sandy, placed on some gloves and put on lengthy pants; we don’t need to see all that.’”
Even with a home within the hills to point out she’s made it, Bullock doesn’t behave like a film star. “On the premiere for Velocity, I used to be hiding behind Keanu’s again. I like to behind the scenes watching, however I can’t command a crowd. I’m within the nook, sweating: I didn’t put on the best factor, I don’t look adequate, I spilled a drink throughout my costume, I’m working into furnishings. I’d relatively simply do the job.”
However what about these publicity photographs of her briefly skirts and excessive heels and décolletage and ankle bracelets? “It’s a sport,” she says, “I like it, however then I see the images, and I feel, My God, that’s me? In my life, I run round in overalls and clunky boots.”
Generally her boyfriend (the previously-referred-to Tate Donovan) thinks she must lose the dishevelled T-shirts and let the world see how horny she is. “I say, ‘Why? It’s no one’s enterprise however yours and mine what goes on in my bed room. Subsequent factor you already know, I’ll have to purchase the Wonderbra!’”
She’s additionally cautious about utilizing the phrase love. “I’ve a tough time saying it. Individuals use that phrase so freely. Somebody I barely know will say, ‘I like you, speak to you quickly.’ I’m pondering, You’re keen on me? You imply if I had been previous and grey you’d keep by my mattress and assist me to the toilet?”
Sandra Bullock, previous and grey; it’s a theme she comes again to repeatedly: “Who’s gonna be there once I’m previous and grey?” Perhaps Tate Donovan shall be there.
“I do love him,” she says, breaking down and uttering the L-word. “However he is aware of I’m afraid of marriage. I’ve this dream that I’m strolling down the aisle, and as quickly as I say ‘I do,’ I look over on the individual reverse me, and this gloom comes over me, and I look again down the aisle and within the doorway is that this little man, backlit, and my coronary heart sinks, I used to be imagined to marry him. I’m simply afraid I’m going to marry any individual, and he’s going to develop into an ax assassin.
“I hope in the future I’ll be able to take the nice romantic step. They are saying when you already know, you already know. You get up in the future and go, Okay, I do. I hope.”
For the second, she and Donovan are glad. “It’s onerous for me to click on with any individual,” she says. “I noticed this poster in L.A. with a lady saying, ‘I’m changing into the person I’ve all the time needed to marry.’ And you already know what’s humorous? I’m doing precisely that. So I don’t need to look to Tate for something besides a terrific playground. A jungle fitness center. Someone who’s there to get pleasure from life with me.” Is he jealous, now that she’s a lot in demand?
“He’s Irish,” she says. “Very emotional. He pushes me—‘Go wherever you need to go’—however then he says, ‘Who’s that man you had been speaking to? He’s mighty handsome.’”
She’s a tiny bit jealous herself. “Tate’s a tremendous actor, and I all the time suppose, each time he goes off to work, There are such a lot of lovely girls, they’re going to steal him away, and I’ll be left right here going, What do I do now?”
Does she need kids? “Proper now, I’m too career-minded,” she says in truth. “I’m certain my priorities will change, however now I’m simply so pushed and so completely happy being in chaos and in work.”
She’s loopy in regards to the script of Whereas You Had been Sleeping. “It’s a terrific romantic comedy. Demi Moore wasn’t in a position to do it as a result of they couldn’t work out her scheduling—I ought to name and thank her for being too busy”—and he or she’s thrilled with the clout her new success has introduced her.
“It permits me to have my very own manufacturing firm. I could make small movies with my buddies, make use of them, choice their scripts; I can repay the home; I gained’t have to fret once I’m previous and grey and alone. It all the time comes again to once I’m previous and alone as a result of I by no means assume anyone shall be by my aspect. I all the time suppose the worst, so if I get a little bit further, it’s like wow!”
Lately, it’s greater than a little bit further. She’s as a consequence of begin filming Two if by Sea, costarring Denis Leary, someday in March. Presents are rolling in, huge gives. But when she weren’t what she refers to as “a viable commodity,” if the work dried up, would her life be over? “Nope. I might redo homes, I might produce performs, I might do one thing. I’m like a shark. If I cease, I’ll simply die; if I preserve transferring, I’m okay.”
Carpe diem, proper now, carpe diem.