Signature line: "Don't you dare lie to me." If Sandra Bullock ever used that line from 'The Blind Side' on her rapscallion husband Jesse James, it didn't work. The last year brought the best of times and the worst of times for the hard-working actress, who starred in two hits and one flop and won her first Oscar -- and may have lost her marriage. Welcome to the first installment of Career Watch, a new bi-weekly column by veteran film reporter and Moviefone guest-blogger Anne Thompson. Every other Wednesday, Thompson will look at the career of a major Hollywood star, analyze the moves they've made thus far and offer career advice on where they could or should head from here. This week: Oscar winner Sandra Bullock.
Signature line: "Don't you dare lie to me." If Sandra Bullock ever used that line from 'The Blind Side' on her rapscallion husband Jesse James, it didn't work. The last year brought the best of times and the worst of times for the hard-working actress, who starred in two hits and one flop and won her first Oscar -- and may have lost her marriage.
Career Peaks: From the start, Bullock boasted both crack comic timing and populist instincts, while confounding genre expectations. She learned how to drive a bus for her breakout role opposite Keanu Reeves in 'Speed.' She fought hard to land the lead role in 'While You Were Sleeping.' She channeled the physical comedy of Jim Carrey as the butch FBI officer who learns how to be girl in 'Miss Congeniality' and its sequel. "I like playing a dude," she said at her February Santa Barbara tribute. In 2009, Bullock won her first Oscar and starred in her first-ever $200 million movie, John Lee Hancock's heart-tugging true story, 'The Blind Side.' Her second smash of the year, the romantic comedy 'The Proposal,' grossed over $300 million worldwide. Up-ending the rom-com older man-younger woman paradigm, Bullock played a bossy but sexy book editor having an affair with her assistant (Ryan Reynolds).
Awards Attention: After passing on 'Blind Side,' Bullock decided to take the role when she figured out that it was "a story about a mother and son," she told Charlie Rose. She donned a blonde wig to play real-life Christian Leigh Anne Tuohy, who adopted homeless, black student Michael Oher -- and helped to turn him into a football star. Bullock's genuine popularity with the media and the film industry made her a surprise awards season darling, charming everyone on the circuit. She memorably bussed Meryl Streep when they tied for Best Actress at the Critics Choice Awards. Bullock went on to win at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, leading up to the big show: the Academy Awards. "I didn't aspire to this," she said, clutching her Oscar in the Academy Awards press room. "I was in awe of it, I got to watch it like everyone else. I didn't think the opportunity would present itself to rise to that occasion. This came out of left field. This is the film I said 'no' to. If I thought it was going to be my golden ticket...Things came together in a way no one saw coming."
Latest Misfire: Bullock became the first actress to win both an Oscar and a Razzie (for the execrable comedy 'All About Steve') in the same year, and showed up to both ceremonies to accept her awards.
Biggest Problem: Nobody could have imagined the post-Oscar nightmare that faced Bullock from the relentless tabloid spotlight on her husband, bad-boy motorcycle gearhead Jesse James, from his infidelities and Nazi regalia to their purported raunchy sex practices.
Biggest Assets: Throughout the worst, fan sympathies ran with Bullock, who has tried to lay low and do what's best for her three step-children. Beloved and in her prime at 45, the former dancer and gymnast is an admitted workaholic and gifted physical comedienne, holding her own with the bionic Reynolds in 'The Proposal''s infamous nude scene. In 2002, she abandoned formulaic studio rom-coms and took two years off to renovate homes, recognizing that she and Hollywood were on the outs. "I wasn't being good to it, and it wasn't being good to me," she told Charlie Rose. After that she demonstrated a wider range by taking on indie ensemble character roles in 'Infamous' and 'Crash' (which won the 2005 Best Picture Oscar), and rejoining Reeves in the 2006 mystery romance 'The Lake House.' Those roles made 'The Blind Side' possible.
Current Gossip: "There is no sex tape," she told People this week, as she desperately tried to quiet down the constant internet roar from tabloid sites like Newser, which breathlessly runs any sordid blog item in search of traffic. New stories seem to hit every day now.
Next Step: The best way for Bullock to get out of tabloid jail is to get back to work. While her production company Fortis is developing a few scripts, she hasn't signed to do another movie. Hollywood's top-ranked female star, Bullock has her pick of roles and needs to prep some pictures, whether a slapstick comedy or romance. As Streep said backstage at the Golden Globes, "There are more good roles for women than ever before. The perception is better for Sandra than it was for me at her age."
Career Advice: Keep them guessing. Bullock's own mantra: "Be nobody but yourself, in a world that is trying to make you be like everyone else." Unlike other actresses who have tried to hang on to their girlish qualities, Bullock has happily acted her age. And she has learned the hard way (after falling afoul of such bad decisions as 'Speed 2' and 'Two Weeks Notice') that a star's best allies are strong writing and directing. She realized that she was picking the wrong projects "for someone else's benefit," she told Charlie Rose. "You have to top stop the flow of what's easy and comfortable and the amenities. It paralyzes you." Backstage at the Oscars, Bullock said, "I want to do everything. I don't like it when people tell me I can't do something. Just because I won an Oscar doesn't mean I don't want to do a comedy. I love making people laugh. I just want to do work in every genre until I'm asked not to do it anymore."
Anne Thompson -- who has served as Deputy Editor of Variety.com and The Hollywood Reporter, West Coast Editor of Premiere and Senior Writer at Entertainment Weekly -- writes a daily blog on indieWIRE, Thompson on Hollywood. You can check out some of her latest posts here:
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