Razzies, Oscars and a split with motorbike riding outlaw-wannabe Jesse James – Sandra Bullock has had quite an eventful month. Her new film The Blind Side (in which she plays super football-mom Leigh-Anne Tuohy) has already taken more at the US Box Office than any other film with a female lead in history.
With the movie opening in the UK this weekend, she and co-star Quinton Aaron (the football player in question) were happy to tell us what all the fuss was about…
What is it like to play characters that are based on real people who are not necessarily famous? Do you try to capture their spirit? And what do you look for?
QA: For me, Michael and I have a lot of similarities as far as our personalities. We’re both gentle giants, and keep to ourselves. We were both the biggest kids in our school. I hadn’t met him so I didn’t want to try and overact or anything. But John Lee—my coach, Coach Lee—made me feel comfortable with being myself in the role. So, I just tried to put myself in the positions that he was in based off the script and do the best I could.
SB: That’s a tough one because I do think that I tried to get as close as possible. I mean, you don’t meet an energy like Leigh Anne’s ever. She might not be famous here but she’s known in other places. And I think I felt a great sense of fear in trying to tackle the person she is, but also a great sense of obligation to be true to this wonderful dynamic. And John could not explain Leigh Anne to save his life. When I met Leigh Anne, I said, “Now I know why you can’t, because she’s original.” [Laughs] But there’s such a dynamic that exists between those people and their children that you want to pay homage to them. I wanted to as closely as I could. So, I did my best.
Sandra, how do you go about choosing roles?
My way of choosing roles is vastly different now than it was a long time ago. But I can only be that way now because of what I learned from the past. So, I’m choosing now not to choose just any work because when you’ve had such a nice, unexpected and fulfilling ride, you really don’t want to take a step backwards. So, it has really made me satisfied in a way that I wasn’t look for but was blessed with it. And now I feel really full, in a good way, where I don’t need to rush out and go find something. I don’t want to.
When did you make that choice?
Well, the fact was that I realized that I’m staring at a stack of scripts and I can’t bear to open them. I don’t want to step into that world right now. I want to enjoy where I am. So, I think it was over time, just having good life experiences, that I was actually cognizant of the work that I was very satisfied with. I just want to enjoy the ride instead of blasting forward and trying to fill a void that doesn’t exist in the work place.
This question is for Quinton. What was it like for you as beginners to work with this caliber of actors and directors? What do you take away from this experience?
QA: It’s been a dream working on this set. At the same time, my heart rate has reached levels I didn’t know were possible for a person to stay alive. The first time I met Sandra was on Easter Sunday. I’m standing outside the room for a couple of seconds like, “Slow down. Stop sweating. Oh, god. I can’t breathe. The walls are moving.” [Laughs] And I got it together some kind of way. I built myself up to go in the room. And as soon as we saw each other, she came to me and gave me the hug that said, “Hey, I haven’t seen you in years. How have you been?” And at that point my heart rate went back to a regular normal pace. I felt comfortable. And she’s just such a sweetheart. I’ve loved her for years. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since…
SB: Don’t say you were a baby. [Laughs]
QA: Love potion number nine. And I just never imagined being able to work along side of her in a feature film one day, starring along side of her in a feature film one day. It has just been an honor. Then, when I met Tim, this guy, he’s real cool. I call him “Pops” on set because he plays the father. But he was more like an older brother to me. [Laughs] He really had a lot of wisdom and knowledge and information that he was very helpful with, that I took from him. And he’s a real cool dude to hang out with and get to know. I enjoyed singing sometimes on set with him and hearing him sing. And because of him, I’m a fan of country music. [Laughs]
SB: If I can just interject, the caliber of working with these three [young actors] was extraordinary. They might not have had as many years as we do under our belt, but you’d never know that walking onto set. I mean, the love and the joy and the comfort and the professionalism that these three gave on a daily basis would just floor me.
You’d see either one of them behind the camera once we told Quinton that, yes, you do have to show up for my close up when you’re not on camera. [Laughs] That was astounding. And it doesn’t require a lot of years in the business, because we work with people who have been in the business many years and don’t even show up for your off-camera.
But it’s amazing the professionalism that you get from these guys. And I’m so excited to see what they do with their lives and their craft because if this is where they are now I can not imagine what they’re going to accomplish.
Sandra, what was it about the character of Leigh Anne on the page that appealed to you, before you actually got to meet her?
Initially, when I was approached with this beautifully written story, you could see it play out. I didn’t know how to play Leigh Anne. I didn’t know how to approach it or what I could bring to it. So, I just kept saying, “No, this is not going to work for me.” Then John said, “Well, why don’t you just come meet Leigh Anne.” So, I met Leigh Anne for the whole day and I left there completely exhausted because of the energy she has, but in love with this human being and who she is at this time on the planet. But I still didn’t know how to play her; I had no idea. I didn’t know how to bring that to life and be truthful and do a good job with it. I don’t know at what point I said yes. I don’t recall.
Sandra, what are your thoughts on producing as you move forward in your career?
To me, the producing falls into the same category as acting. It requires so much time out of your life and I take it very personally, I realized. So, if I do something it just has to be something I love and I don’t want anyone else to do. When I open projects, maybe something will appeal to me. I just think I’m not opening them because I don’t want anything to appeal to me right now. I’m so happy where I am right now. I don’t want to be tempted to move from this place that I am. I’d like to just be happy where I am. And I think that’s producing and acting right now.
I wanted to know if you did speak to the real Michael Oher? Also, how did you train for this, because I understand you trained really hard?
QA: No, I haven’t had a chance to speak to Michael yet. He’s been a little busy in the NFL. [Laughs] Hard to get away. But I’ve been working my behind off to try to look the part, doing two-a-day workouts seven days a week and following a strict diet plan. The motto of the plan was, “If it tastes good, it’s not good for you.” [Laughs] That was cruel and unusual punishment. [Laughs]
For the actors, what was it was about this story that really resonated with you the most?
SB: First of all, it was a beautifully executed book, especially for someone who’s been around football players her whole life and still knew nothing or cared anything about the game. By the end of the game, I was in such awe of what it takes to be an athlete and what the coaches contribute to these children’s lives and how they support and push and inspire.
I had a real sense of jealousy that they got to experience that and I never did as an athlete or as someone who was able to be brought to that point. But, even though I didn’t think I could make this movie, the inspiring part of this movie is, here is this family that does this—didn’t do it because someone was writing an article or a book or making a movie, did it because that’s where the instinct said, “This is what we’re going to do. And we’re going to give love and reach out a hand.” And everyone came and questioned them, of course. We don’t trust anyone who does anything nice. That’s just the sad world we live in.
But they didn’t care. And they kept going. And it makes you feel like you need to step up your game. So, whatever wonderful actress was going to play Leigh Anne Tuohy, it was going to be an inspirational true-life story that proves we’re capable of so much more than we think we are. We don’t really live in a world that supports the good that we could do. They all want us to do something bad. It sells some papers or some, you know, news report.
QA: I would say what attracted me to the role, after reading the script, was that it was the first I’ve heard about the story. I didn’t know the story. And it is such an inspirational story that needs to be heard. So, I wanted to portray it because it’s a story about someone who’s here now, as opposed to someone who’s dead and gone. He’s going to be able to witness what’s been said about him. And I think people—after knowing someone’s background, where they came from, and seeing the positive things they’ve done with their life—gain so much more respect for that person.
And I wanted to be a part of bringing his story to light because it’s a story that will inspire a lot of our youth today, I feel. It tells you that, basically, no matter how hard of a background you come from, you don’t have to turn to guns and violence and end up in jail or in the morgue just because of how bad you had it. Everyone goes through things, but they’ve got to know it’s not going to last forever. There’s a way out. So, that’s what I got from this.