After enduring a slew of mediocre romantic comedies in recent years, it's a welcome sight to have Sandra Bullock back on screen doing what she does best in The Proposal. But as far as proposals go, it wasn't easy getting her to say yes.
"I stopped doing romantic comedies because I couldn't stand them anymore. They weren't funny, so the word comedy shouldn't be in them. They certainly weren't romantic, and they had nothing to say," says Bullock.
Directed by Anne Fletcher (Step Up, 27 Dresses), the movie is entertaining, just not in a laugh-a-minute way. However, Bullock and her co-star, the ubiquitous Ryan Reynolds, (Definitely Maybe, Adventureland, Wolverine) have genuine chemistry. The story itself is as original as it can be given this take on the girl-meets-boy-loses-boy-gets-him-back genre.
Although she's been more successful at the box office in comedic fare such as Miss Congeniality or Two Weeks Notice, in the past few years she's been drawn to darker material such as Premonition and Infamous. Or the The Lakehouse, which wasn't too favourable with audiences.
Nevertheless, Bullock was emphatic about leaving her rom-com days behind her. "I didn't even want to read the script. I said, 'That's not where I am right now.' Because the RC word was attached to it, I had no desire. Then I eventually read it and it didn't feel like a romantic comedy to me, so I said, 'If you stop calling it a rom-com then I'll be a little more open to it.' Then it came down to the director because I thought, 'Who can do this and make it not only not stupid, but actually raise the bar?' Then I met Anne Fletcher. I am so in love with Anne Fletcher, I can't take it!" she gushes, speaking almost without a breath. "And as for Ryan, well, I've known him for years, so with that combination attached, it became impossible for me to say no."
The Proposal marks the first time Bullock has gone anywhere near nudity in her career. For a woman to jump into that particular deep end at almost 45 years of age proves that this former cheerleader has some balls. "I knew we'd get a big laugh if Ryan and I did the scene fully nude. I thought, if I'm ever going to do it, this is the perfect time - do it for a joke. We wanted it to be something you've never quite seen before. We warned the crew that day, 'Don't eat your lunch! It might get ugly,"' she laughs. "And I pleaded with them - please don't let this wind up on YouTube! Please!"
The Proposal was shot mainly in Massachusetts posing for Sitka, Alaska, for a modest US$40 million. What remains evident while watching Bullock, a veteran in this genre whether she likes it or not, is how many actresses try and emulate her physicality, mannerisms, and screwball quality.
Says Fletcher, "Yes, but they don't do it as well. She's one of a kind, and still to this day there isn't anybody like her. She's physical and people don't do physical comedy that can make it still believable. There are just not many girls that will let themselves be vulnerable and crazy but still look beautiful."
Reynolds, 33, says of Bullock, "What's so attractive about Sandy is that she has no idea how beautiful she is. That's so unusual." It's probably especially unusual for Reynolds, who is married to Scarlett Johansson, a woman who has no hesitation in talking about her beauty.
Against type, Bullock plays a domineering, hard-as-nails book editor to Reynolds' hapless assistant. It's a modern story in that the tables are turned and the power is in Bullock's hands versus the leading man. Refreshingly, the age difference scenario is not belaboured. In fact, it's never even discussed.
The premise of the story is that Bullock plays a Canadian whose visa has run out and in order for her to stay in the US she has to find an eligible groom, and Reynolds begrudgingly takes on this task. The cast also features Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, and the iconic Betty White.
Like her character, Bullock was a late bloomer in terms of romance. After relationships with Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Gosling, she met entrepreneur Jesse James, 40, who customises motorcycles and choppers, and who is starring in his new TV show Jesse James is a Dead Man. (Incidentally, he is a great-great cousin of his former outlaw relative). Although an unlikely couple, they will celebrate their four year anniversary in July. Bullock is step-mother to his three children: Chandler, 12, Jesse James Jr., 10, and Sunny, 5. She is definitely happy with her lot, living in Los Angeles.
"Success to me isn't how much you have in the bank account, but I can say that being someone who's able to pay their bills, so it's a little hypocritical. But I don't have to be in front of the camera to feel validated," Bullock says.
Although she didn't produce this movie, Bullock enjoys her work behind the camera, and will do double duty as producer and leading lady in her next movie, All About Steve, with Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), and Thomas Hayden Church (Sideways).
Marriage being the theme of the day, Bullock, who was always vocal about not being the kind of woman who obsessed over weddings, marriage, and children, says of her own relationship, "I can't tell you how I view marriage because that's a big question but I can tell you that I view it my way. I never had a good view on it. I didn't want to be married, I didn't want to go into that institution because I didn't see any benefits."
And now that she's been married a few years, what has surprised her about married life? "That it's just perfect for me. It's just perfect and that is unexpected."
Who: Sandra Bullock
Key Roles: Demolition Man (1993), Speed (1994), While You Were Sleeping (1995), The Net, A Time to Kill (1996), Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997), Practical Magic (1998), 28 Days (2000), Miss Congeniality (2000) Murder by Numbers (2002), Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), Two Weeks Notice (2002), Crash (2004), Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous (2005), The Lake House (2005), Infamous (2007) Premonition (2007)
Latest: The Proposal previews this weekend and opens June 18