By Sondra Barr
Twenty-five years ago, a star was born when Sandra Bullock earned global recognition with the huge box-office hit Speed alongside Keanu Reeves. The 1994 action thriller in which she played a passenger on a bus packed with explosives was a sleeper hit and launched the wide-eyed ingénue as a household name. Since then, Bullock has transformed from the low-key girl next door to a seasoned superstar who’s among the most celebrated and highest paid actresses ever.
Now the ageless a-lister can add another accomplishment to her impressive career–– Netflix sensation. According to the Associated Press, 45 million Netflix subscriber accounts worldwide watched the Sandra Bullock thriller Bird Box during its first seven days on the service, the largest first-week success of any movie made for the streaming service.
It’s a feat that’s not lost on Bullock, who recently talked with Alexandra Pollard at the Independent about the success of this post-apocalyptic horror movie. “…the streaming world has elevated the bar for cinema. [Before], if you were a superhero, you were able to get a movie made; anything else was not getting made. Now, with streaming, we have all kinds of work available, so we can act again. This wonderful business is changing, and providing so many more opportunities for women, and people of color. There’s a great change happening.”
Born to a German opera singer mother and a voice teacher father in Virginia, the 54-year-old Bullock is no stranger to commercial big budget movies across many genres. Her dozens of diverse films include A Time to Kill, Miss Congeniality, Crash, Two Weeks’ Notice, The Proposal, and Ocean’s 8. Success has also come in the form of industry recognition. Bullock earned the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Actress in 2009’s The Blind Side, which catapulted Bullock to even greater heights.
The following year would bring both highs and lows for Bullock. She adopted her son Louis and dealt with a very public divorce from Jesse James amid news of his multiple affairs. Bullock credits adopting her son with bringing her life into perspective and helping her realize that her biggest and best role wouldn’t be onscreen, but rather behind the scenes as a mother.
In a 2018 interview with the Today Show’s Hoda Kotb, Bullock explained how fate led her to motherhood. In her early forties, Bullock had been considering adoption for years, but it wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina, which caused massive loss of life and destruction in New Orleans in 2005, that she was compelled to begin the adoption process.
“Something told me that my child was there,” said Bullock, who endured an extensive adoption paperwork process before laying eyes on her son. “I looked at (Louis), and I just said, ‘Oh, there you are.’ It’s like he had always been there. It’s like he fit in the crook of my arm. He looked me in the eyes, and he was just––he was wise. My child was wise. The beautiful thing that I was constantly told was, ‘The perfect child will find you. You will find your child.’”
Five years after adopting Louis, Bullock adopted daughter Laila. A doting mother to her two young children, most things take a backseat to the 9 and 7 year old, including her high-powered acting career.
“Everything is about them being ok, being in school, having what they need, their moments. I need to be there for every single moment that they have. It’s harder for me to leave them than I think it is for them when I leave. I don’t leave that much, and I don’t work that much anyone either…So my priorities are my kids, my kids, my kids. My family. My family. That’s it,” she emphasized to Kotb.
It wasn’t until Bird Box, a movie that stars Bullock as a pregnant woman fighting to survive during her pregnancy and then having to figure out how to raise a child while a mysterious condition compels the afflicted to take their own lives, that Bullock came to grips with her biggest fear. “Mine is something happening to my kids,” she said to Pollard. “I live in such a fearful place. I’m so afraid all the time. I think becoming a mother has made me that much more fearful.”
For a while, it scared Bullock that her life didn’t fit the nuclear family mold, according to Pollard. “Society’s hard,” said Bullock during their interview. “Society still, as open-minded as we’ve become, has these rules that quietly say: ‘This is the way it goes.’ They’re saying: ‘It’s a man and a woman, and then you have a baby, and that’s the family.’ I go: ‘Oh my god, I’m a single parent. With a child. How am I…’ I felt less than. I felt: ‘I’m not the complete package.’ And then I realized…this is the complete package.”
However, the negativity and criticism directed toward women in her profession still troubles Bullock. In an interview with E! News, the Oscar winner divulged that it’s something she’s cognizant of as she’s trying to teach her children how to treat other people. “I feel like it’s become hunting season in how women are attacked,” she said. “And it’s not because of who we are as people, it’s because of how we look, or our age,” she said. “I’m embarrassed about it, because my son’s getting ready to grow up in this world, and I’m trying to raise a good man who values and appreciates women.”
Named as the World’s Most Beautiful Woman 2015 by People Magazine, Bullock has said that she has a circle of peers in the industry for support. “You’d be surprised at the love that you have. In our crazy industry, the women have bonded together, and it has sort of become this tribe of trying to take care of each other and be there for each other in a way, because the minute you step out it is an onslaught.”
Yet, health and fitness still remain a priority for Bullock, who had to be in tip-top shape for the 2013 film Gravity, a film that generated more than $500 million at the box office. For her role, she had to be in amazing condition to accomplish the grueling wirework required to mimic movements in zero gravity. “I pushed my body to the extreme. Strength-wise, I had to know I could do anything [the director] asked of me at any given point, so not a day went by that we didn’t train,” said Bullock during a news conference to promote the film.
According to Shape Magazine, Bullock has said that variety––dance, cardio, yoga, and Pilates––keeps her regime fresh and prevents boredom. “People ask, ‘How do you actresses do it?’ Um, they pay us to do this in order to look good on film,” she’s joked.
But, the most important thing to her is not looking good or staying a box office goddess, it’s making a happy home for her adopted family and living outside the box of cultural expectations. As Bullock recently responded to a question about fostering and adopting: “In this lifetime we are lucky, because we can make the family that makes us happiest. Sometimes you just need to go out and find it and bring it home!”