Bullock, Sandra: Movie Star–Appeal of Girl-Next-Door?

At 45, a dangerous age for most actresses, Sandra Bullock still is one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading ladies.   Her new romantic comedy, “The Proposal,” co-starring Ryan Reynolds, benefits from a positive word-of-mouth.


In an active career that began small in undistinguished films two decades ago, Bullock has made over 30 movies.  She will next be seen on the big screen in “All About Steve,” a comedy produced by her company, Fortis Films.  She is currently filming “Blindside,” in which she portrays the matriarch of a conservative suburban household, based on Michael Oher’s true story.


I mention that to indicate how a smart, likeable actress, but not a major star like Julia Roberts, or spectacularly talented like Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett (neither of whom is a bankable star, to use industry jargon), has carved a niche for herself, mostly in romantic comedies.  We enjoy watching her on screen, though I challenge you to name the specific titles of her features and to distinguish one romantic comedy from another.


Bullock is an attractive, genuinely appealing performer, if not a particularly accomplished actress in terms of range and versatility.  Her breakthrough was in the 1994 runaway hit, the action-thriller “Speed,” in which the real star was a bus, with Bullock and Keanu Reeves as supporting players (though both actors got credit for its success). 


The American Dream of upward mobility is well and alive: For “Speed,” Bullock was paid $500,000; she now gets paid $12-15 million per picture, plus producer’s fee and shares. 


Bullock’s next two features, “While You Were Sleeping,” which earned her a Golden Globe nomination, and “The Net,” were critical and popular successes.  “While You Were Sleeping” was her first solo-starring vehicle, putting her at the forefront of leading actresses.  As a result, in 1996, she was voted NATO-ShoWest Female Star of the Year.


Even in her mediocre films, Bullock has relied on high likeability quotient and screen image of “the girl-woman next door,” a smart, often professional femme who remains emotionally vulnerable and needs a man in her life.  Even in playing “harsh” career women, Bullock can draw us into her loneliness just by looking at us with her sad eyes, and rest assure that by the end of the movie, she’ll end up with a desirable male.


Bullock’s subsequent starring roles included the box-office hits “Forces of Nature,” “Hope Floats,” which marked her feature film-producing debut; “Practical Magic,” which she also co-produced for her production company Fortis Films; “Miss Congeniality,” for which she received her second Golden Globe nomination.


Adding to her list of box-office hits was “Two Weeks Notice,” in which she starred opposite Hugh Grant, which grossed over $200 million at the global box-office; about half of this figure was made in the U.S. 


She received critical acclaim for he
r role as Harper Lee in “Infamous,” a film directed by Doug McGrath that chronicles Truman Capote’s life from 1959 to 1965.  Bullock has been les successful in psychological thrillers like “Premonition,” or supernatural horror, “The Lake House,” opposite Keanu Reeves. 


But she keeps busy, in front and behind the camera.  She made her debut as a writer-director with the short “Making Sandwiches,” opposite Matthew McConaughey, which debuted at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.  Bullock recently concluded her stint as the executive producer of the highly successful “The George Lopez Show,” which aired on ABC for six seasons.


Though she has never been nominated for an Oscar, Bullock has received several popularity awards, including two Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, four MTV Movie Awards, an American Comedy Award, eight Teen Choice Awards, four People’s Choice Awards for Favorite Female Movie Star and two Golden Globe7 nominations.


Clearly, Bullock has succeeded in building a loyal fan base, composed on female teenagers and young women, who are attracted to her “ordinary charm,” the fact that she is not threatening to men at the work force or the domestic front.  Perhaps the secret to Bullock’s continuous appeal is her choice of modest vehicles that are suitable to her range.


Commercial highlights of Bullock’s career:


Miss Congeniality (2005), $106.8 million

Two Weeks Notice (2002), 93.4

Ya-Ya-Sisterhood (2002), 69.6

Crash (2005), 54.6

Forces of Nature (1999), 52.9

The Lake House (2006), 52.3

Miss Congeniality 2 (2005), 48.5

28 Days (2000), 37.1

Murder by Numbers (2002), 31.9