She got a quick start in last year's public-transportation thriller, Speed, and even more attention in the recent romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping. But those who really know Sandra Bullock's oeuvre fell for her beguiling smile and personality long ago in her debut film, Love Potion #9. Since then, the 29-year-old has appeared as the dead girlfriend in The Vanishing, as a waitress who befriends Robert Duvall in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, as a country-singing wanna-be in The Thing Called Love and as Sylvester Stallone's future-cop sidekick in Demolition Man. No doubt being the daughter of a German opera singer and an Alabama-bred vocal coach prepared her to take on diverse roles. Next, she plays an agoraphobic computer geek in The Net and will star opposite Denis Leary in Two If By Sea. Contributing Editor David Rensin met with Bullock at her Los Angeles home, a fixer-upper she's proud to have fixed up herself. "We talked in her breakfast nook for two hours," says Rensin. "The whole time I kept wondering why, with all her talent--as an actress and as a general contractor--wrapped up in such a fabulous and approachable package, this woman was single."
What is unsafe at any speed?
Falling in love--as it should be. Yet you should go with it regardless of whether or not you get into a horrible accident. Even if your heart gets smashed, you'll be a better person once you're over the pain.
In British slang, "bullocks" means balls. Does that describe you?
Most of the time, yes. It's either balls or it's stupidity. I'm like a bull in a china shop. I barrel in-to things because if I give myself too long to think about them, I'll be too scared to do them. I'm ballsy on first instinct. In retrospect I'm a "Why did you do that?" type of person. So I sit around and second-guess myself all the time--but I never go back and correct the situation. My first instinct is always right. Some people have buyer's remorse; I have action remorse, dress remorse, comment remorse. I always go, "That was stupid. Why did I say that?" On the other hand, I say what I think. I should be glad.
Are you a gals' gal or are you a guys' gal?
I can be either, depending on the company I keep. Mostly I'm a nice balance of both. These days there's not so much of a difference as there was 20 years ago, when one type of woman hung with the guys at the truck stop and the other was a homemaker. I love that I have a lot of male friends and I can talk to them about what guys like from girls. And my girlfriends are really strong, feminine women--yet we can all be girls together. Some days we just have to go out and shop, get a massage, get loofahed and pampered. The next day we want to conquer the world and start our own company.
Explain the loofah to the unwashed.
It's an exfoliant. It looks like a sponge made of shredded wheat. I got loofahed yesterday. You go to this place in Chinatown and they put you in a hot alkaline bath. Then a lovely Asian woman comes in, throws you onto a table--you're naked--takes a loofah glove and rubs it all over your body. It completely tears off the first three layers of skin so that you feel like you were just born. Then they give you a shiatsu, dip you and flip you around, toss you about the room. You walk out feeling like you've just taken off that week's ugly layer. You're all shiny and pink and you can go off into the next millennium.
While we're close to the skin, tell us what men should know about women's underwear. How soon is too soon to buy some for you?
No one has ever bought me underwear, and I'm a little bummed about that. Maybe it's not such a big deal anymore to buy a woman underwear. Women have Victoria's Secret. We're in there every day, buying the greatest stuff, so men probably think, I can't buy her that sexy piece because she probably already has it. I've bought myself the gamut. I like a certain type of . . . how can I say it delicately? It doesn't produce pantie lines. I like camisoles. I love men's Calvin Kleins. Women think pulling on a pair of men's underwear is very sexy.
Buying me underwear by the second week of dating is a little forward. Maybe after the three-month getting-to-know-you period is over, when you know if you want to continue the relationship. Then, I would prefer him to buy what he wanted to see me in. I want to be surprised, like, "Try this on." As long as there are no sharp things sticking out of it.
Finish this sentence: I must have—.
Chocolate. Dark, milk, it doesn't matter. Depends on the mood. If I feel sophisticated and European, I go for semisweet. If I feel childlike and playful, I go for milk chocolate. Every once in a while I'll try chocolate with a filling of some sort. My mother is from Germany and I was raised there, so she sends me these elaborate chocolate bars that have liquor inside. But I like basic chocolate. Over the counter, it's Hershey's.
For Germans, sausage is an all-purpose word. For example, when they say, "Heidi is wurstlike," it means she's playful. Can you give us other common German phrases that employ the word sausage, or should we ask Claudia Schiffer?One of my favorites is "Es ist mir Wurst," Which means "I don't care." We translate it literally in our family, "It's my sausage." [Pauses] Please don't lump me with Claudia Schifier, though. It's like a compliment and not. In a room with Claudia Schiffer, who do you think is going to be asked the sausage question?
You once poked fun at our Playmate Data Sheet. So, what are your turn-ons and turnoffs?
My turn-ons are electricity, sharp wit, a sense of humor on occasion, and nice forearms and hands on a guy. I also love great dancers and unabashed directness about what you want, behind closed doors or not. I don't like hemming and hawing. That just gives me time to think about walking away.
My turnoffs are also electricity, and somebody who doesn't know what a wrench or a screwdriver is. I'm also turned off by people who talk down to me. I can put up with a lot of garbagetype people. But when someone talks to me like I'm a four-year-old, that lights the fuse and makes me want to lash out.
We hear you're fond of blackjack. Do you stand or take a hit on 17?
When I was in Reno it became my game of choice. It was the only thing that gave me some sense of control. I had read a little book on how to play blackjack--not that I remembered anything, I figured that if I could maintain my $35, which I did for an hour--win-lose, win-lose--I was doing well. My one rule is not to look at the ball overhead and wave. In fact, they ask you not to. The guy who's watching doesn't want you to say hi. I always take a hit on 17. Always. You're not supposed to, but it's that fine line. I just figure the gods like me enough to give me whatever I need. It usually never happens.
Great acting may be a turn-on, but it won't make me fantasize about the person for a week.
In While You Were Sleeping you fall in love with a guy who goes into a coma. How much fun can you have with an inanimate man?
Well, they don't talk back. But that would be no fun at all. I don't like guys who will lie down and take it. I want someone who'll fight back. I like people who can argue well. So many people are willing to back down for the sake of not getting into something. I may not be a screamer and thrower, but my ideal mate is not the dead guy in Weekend at Bernie's.
What do you think goes on in your house while you're sleeping?
The dogs make long-distance phone calls, and I have the bills to prove it. All my dogs are in cahoots. Weegee has called Brooklyn, Jersey, Queens. The girls have called France. They're very European. Unfortunately, Weegee's missing and there have been no calls to Jersey, Brooklyn or Queens since he's been gone. I wish he were still making those calls. I want my dog back.
There are some actors you want to watch act, and there are some you just want to sleep with--however compelling they may be as actors. Is this a problem for you?
Great acting may be a turn-on, but it won't make me fantasize about the person for a week. What always gets me is when I see somebody on-screen who looks like he's a great kisser. There's a certain way that I like a guy to go for a woman in a kissing situation. When my girlfriends and I see that the guy isn't afraid, we all have the same reaction: We squeal, we grip the seats, we whisper to one another. We get stupid. There's something compelling about someone who's comfortable with his sensuality, which is all in how he goes for the woman and looks at her. That's what's good about the film business--you can fantasize. You have that stupid crush feeling. It's really nice.
Describe the ingredients in a love potion that would work on you.
The ability to make me laugh a lot. Just be very interested in me. Sometimes I'm all over the place. But I'm incredibly loyal, and I don't like it when somebody puts me in a box. Don't say, "Oh, she's great, but if I just calm her down a little bit....." I once met an old cowboy. His wife was a free spirit and he was very steady. They'd been married for 40 years. I asked him how it worked. He said, "Well, my dad always told me, 'You have a wild pony, don't put up a fence. Just leave a light on at home. If she's happy, she'll always come home." Same with me: Don't corral me and I'll always come home. Always. Just let me go out and play during the day. When I'm exhausted, I'll come back.
What one thing do you know you're really good at?
Dancing. I love going to salsa clubs. On Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, Robert Duvall taught me how to tango. I've also salsaed, rumbaed and merengued with him. We would tango during breaks in shooting, get only to beat 12 and then have to go back on the set. He's a beautiful dancer. That's where I got the bug. Now, every chance I get, I go out and salsa. The tango is so sensual. You have to be really comfortable with yourself--and in sync with your partner. There's this 70-year-old guy I know at one of the salsa clubs--he seems like a Spanish king. We dance and it clicks. It's seductive. It's not a sexual thing, it's sensual. And it takes getting used to. When I first tangoed, I thought, Oh my God, I'm pressing his body! But now, it's the only time I will completely relinquish control, because I have to--and I like it. The woman is totally reactive. The man has the moves. He's guiding with just the fingers and the touch of his right palm, to let you know if you're going into a spin or if you're going to break. It's amazing.
What can you repair around the house without having to use the Yellow Pages?
I can install toilets. I know all about the wax ring. I can screw in a lightbulb. I can tile floors. I'm learning how to do basic wiring. I'm not afraid of electricity so much as I used to be. I just want to do it to say I can. But if a handyman should come into my house who knows how to do it, believe me, I would much rather sit out on a lawn chair and hand him the screwdriver.
Why do women leave their diaries lying around for their boyfriends to stumble on?
I never leave my diary out for anybody to stumble on. Ever. It's in a place where nobody will find it. I don't even write down what I really think because I'm so afraid of what somebody might find. Half my diary is in code, just in case I die and somebody finds it. They'll have no idea what I'm talking about. But I need to get these things out because I don't talk to people a lot. This is my way of venting--once I write it down I feel so much better. One time somebody did some serious snooping. They must have been looking for a long time, because they found my hiding place. That was the end of everything.
You're kidnapped by aliens, and you have 20 minutes to pack. What three things do you take? And what do you bring back when they release you?
A toothbrush. A change of underwear. My throwaway camera, with flash. I want to bring back a group photo in the throwaway camera and that long prod everyone seems to talk about.
You've called Jerry Lewis an inspiration, if not a hero. Imagine for us the movie that you and he would make together, and your part in it.
I want to be Jerry Lewis' sister, with the buckteeth and the glasses, saying, "Lady!" When I saw Dumb and Dumber, I thought, They need a sister! I want to be the sister. I want to be in Dumb, Dumber and Really Stupid. And in there somewhere, Jerry would just be Jerry.
When do you think phone sex was invented, and how do you think the first couple felt afterward?
Was Alexander Graham Bell married? "Watson, come here; I want you." [Laughs] Phone sex was a natural transition. It had to happen. You have a phone. Boy and girl on the line. There's safety in the facelessness of it, so I think it happened almost immediately--probably between Bell and Watson. But that's something the history books will never tell us.
What are the best perks of the acting life? With which overindulgences have you lost patience?
The best perk is going to incredible places--and you don't have to pay for it. Overindulgences occur when assistant directors feel they have to wait on me hand and foot. That makes me so neurotic. I can get my own water, bagel, cream cheese, whatever. I may be an actor, but I can go to the bathroom by myself. On the other hand, having a masseuse on the set is not a bad thing. When I made Demolition Man I remember standing at the craft service table one day, making an offhand remark that I love Fluff, which is this marshmallow stuff. Apparently, it's sold only in certain parts of the country. Two days later there was a case of it in my trailer. Joel Silver, the producer, had overheard and had somebody send me a case. That's extravagant, but not over the top.