Sandra Bullock in 'The Blind Side'It's not a complete surprise that the true-life sports drama 'The Blind Side' is doing brisk box office business, having surpassed the $100 million mark and still going strong. The movie boasts several major audience-pleasing elements: true underdog story, warm and fuzzy family values, big-time happy ending, and, not least of all, Sandra Bullock.

Even before 'The Blind Side' was released, there was some major buzz about Bullock's role. It was obvious from the trailers that the part of sassy socialite do-gooder Leigh Anne Tuohy was a really good fit for America's one-time Sweetheart, now 45. The film's other lead, Quinton Aaron, is a relative newcomer, so this was clearly a star vehicle for Bullock. And it seems to be driving her to heights of popularity she hasn't enjoyed in a long time, specifically 1994, when she was the breakout star of the blockbuster action flick 'Speed.' As the Los Angeles Times noted, 'The Blind Side' "could, and should, put Bullock firmly in the race for Best Actress. This could be her 'Erin Brockovich.'"
Sandra Bullock in 'The Blind Side'It's not a complete surprise that the true-life sports drama 'The Blind Side' is doing brisk box office business, having surpassed the $100 million mark and still going strong. The movie boasts several major audience-pleasing elements: true underdog story, warm and fuzzy family values, big-time happy ending, and, not least of all, Sandra Bullock.

Even before 'The Blind Side' was released, there was some major buzz about Bullock's role. It was obvious from the trailers that the part of sassy socialite do-gooder Leigh Anne Tuohy was a really good fit for America's one-time Sweetheart, now 45. The film's other lead, Quinton Aaron, is a relative newcomer, so this was clearly a star vehicle for Bullock. And it seems to be driving her to heights of popularity she hasn't enjoyed in a long time, specifically 1994, when she was the breakout star of the blockbuster action flick 'Speed.' As the Los Angeles Times noted, 'The Blind Side' "could, and should, put Bullock firmly in the race for Best Actress. This could be her 'Erin Brockovich.'"

While it remains to be seen if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will agree, it's true that Bullock's career is on a steep upward swing; her summer rom-com 'The Proposal' was also a huge box office draw (it earned $163 million), marking the first time she's had two bona fide hits in one year. Bullock personally earned an estimated $15 million for the film, which puts her in the same salary league as Reese Witherspoon, but not quite up there with Julia Roberts. The latter was reportedly offered the role first, but the studio wouldn't cough up her higher fee.

Of course we can't forget (much as we'd like to) that these two successes sandwiched the misbegotten comedy 'All About Steve,' in which Bullock played a desperate, unhinged eccentric obsessed with a TV cameraman played by Bradley Cooper. Even Sandy couldn't make this essentially disturbing character likable. Or even funny.



Luckily not many people saw 'Steve' (it only grossed $34 million), which seemed to confirm Bullock's tendency to embrace lightweight screwball characters a la 'Two Weeks Notice' and 'Miss Congeniality,' parts one and two. Though she's clearly comfortable with this genre -- and the first 'Congeniality' raked in a cool $106 million -- it hasn't exactly been career-building material. 'The Blind Side,' for which Bullock took a pay cut but will share in the profits, appears to have come at a crucial time for the actress; it's a reminder to many that she is capable of doing solid work in more dramatic fare like '28 Days' and 'The Lake House.' Lest we forget, she also proved capable of surprising us with strong, atypical performances in movies such as 'Crash' and 'Infamous.' (In fact, there was a smattering of Best Supporting Actress Oscar talk regarding Bullock's understated portrayal of novelist Harper Lee in the latter film, but she wasn't nominated.)

What we now know about Sandra Bullock is that she has range, something that wasn't -- and couldn't be -- obvious back in '94, when she was coasting on the success of 'Speed' and her new Sweetheart status. That sort of "overnight" acclaim seldom lasts and most actors find it impossible to achieve anywhere near that level of popularity again. But Bullock is bucking the odds; she really is bigger than ever.
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