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Andy Culpepper talks with Sandra Bullock
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Sandra Bullock in the eye with 'Forces of Nature'

By Andy Culpepper
Turner Entertainment Report Senior Correspondent

In this story:

'I would never get offered' role

A force to be reckoned with

Holding out on audiences?


LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- There is more to Sandra Bullock than meets the eye. If that fact isn't apparent to her fans -- and to the powers-that-be in Hollywood -- she's doing her level best to make the point stick.

The Sandra Bullock who starred as the girl on the bus in "Speed," who rescued the mistaken fiance from the on-coming train in "While You Were Sleeping," who played the smart-and-sassy law student in "A Time to Kill" -- that Sandra Bullock has gone AWOL, taken a sabbatical, and left no forwarding address. At least for the moment.

Her latest film, "Forces of Nature," casts her as a troubled young woman who's trying to straighten out the tangled messes in her life. Sarah hides her insecurities behind a false bravado, but secretly she's hoping to find someone to give her the stability she can't seem to find on her own. In the course of the movie, Sarah becomes the unlikely traveling companion of a guy named Ben -- played by Ben Affleck -- who's on his way to get married.

Most of the plot unfolds as Sarah and Ben deal with disaster, misfortune, incredibly bad timing, and even a hurricane. Hence, "Forces of Nature."

Still, Bullock as the other woman?

Theatrical preview for "Forces of Nature"
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'I would never get offered' role

The character is flawed -- a potential accident in search of a dark cloud, it would seem. And that's just fine with the actress.

"Well I don't, I would never get offered it," she says emphatically. "You know, I would be hunting for it myself. But, normally -- based on my last films -- no one would ever offer it to me."

It's a matter-of-fact admission, and considering the types of characters she's played -- gutsy, smart, noble, strong -- and the box office they've brought in, well, she has a point.

Her girl on the bus with the bomb contributed to a $121 million payday domestically. "While You Were Sleeping" took in a not-too-shabby $80 million.

Hollywood likes its stars predictable for the simple reason that audiences tend to like their stars precisely the same way. And predictable -- more-to-the-point, dependable -- stars are rewarded handsomely.

Bullock has reached the upper echelon where star paydays are concerned: industry reports place her at or near the $15 million mark. Few actresses earn more per picture.

"If you went to go see 'Why You Were Sleeping' or anything else, you wouldn't necessarily think that's me. Those who know me personally would say (Sarah) is me. 'Cause that is more me," Bullock says.

A force to be reckoned with

So far, "Forces of Nature" appears to be a force to be reckoned with. Opening weekend grosses for the quirky comedy exceeded $13.9 million to lead all comers at the box office.

But, truth be told, the tallies shouldn't be so surprising. Last year, the native Virginian starred in and produced another romantic comedy with another flawed character -- a woman who finds out her husband is cheating on her with her best friend, who confesses it to her face on a live television talk show. "Hope Floats" brought in a respectable $50 million -- all the more important, since Bullock's Fortis (yes, it's the Latin word for "strong") Productions developed the project.

Next came the reluctant witch who'd given up on love in "Practical Magic."

Quirky material and Bullock seemed drawn to each other as "Forces of Nature" followed suit -- albeit nearly by accident.

"When I got it I was, you know, I passed on it without reading it the first time because I didn't want to do any romantic comedies because they were all kind of lame," she explains.

But reading was believing in this case, and Bullock tackled the project -- and along the way, herself -- with gusto.

Holding out on audiences?

Much is being made of a scene in the film when Ben Affleck's character climbs on a table in a gay bar and agonizingly performs a strip tease. For all the fuss, moviegoers actually see more of Bullock in another scene when she wears nothing but a lavender bra and panties.

"Yeah, she actually has a body," she says with just a trace of satisfaction. "Go figure."

The point is made that surely the actress has been holding out on audiences or holding back on showing herself off. Neither is the case, she insists.

"I haven't always had that body. I just, in the past year-and-a-half, two years ago, I really started changing my eating habits."

For example? "From ... pizza and Diet Coke to ice cream and something like maybe a piece of chicken and some vegetables on the side."

It's a diet guaranteed to keep her lean and mean, perhaps the better to keep up the hectic commute to Los Angeles from her adopted home near Austin, Texas -- and to help her balance a workload divided between acting and producing, most recently wrapping an independent film with actors Liam Neeson ("Schindler's List," "Rob Roy") and Oliver Platt ("Simon Burch," "Dangerous Beauty").

"Really great experience," she offers. "Tough work."

Tough work, indeed. Sounds a lot like the characters this actress enjoys portraying. After all, her Sarah in "Forces of Nature" sports a rather conspicuous tattoo -- not the usual accoutrement for the shy or timid sort.

But Sarah is a character in every sense of the word. And, if what you see is what you get with Bullock, as she might have us believe -- who owns that tattoo? Sarah or Sandra?

The question is greeted with a tilt of the head, raised eyebrows, and a wouldn't-you-like-to know expression written all over the actress' face.

Yep. There's more to Sandra Bullock than meets the eye -- but precisely how much, she isn't saying. Go figure.

Review: 'Forces of Nature' a tempest in a teacup
March 18, 1999
Bewitched by witches? You're not alone
October 27, 1998
Review: Bullock makes 'Hope' float
May 29, 1998

Official 'Forces of Nature' site
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