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January 28, 2010

Down with the bombshell. Out with the sex kitten. In Hollywood this Oscar season, real women are at the top.

Sandra Bullock, Mo’Nique and Meryl Streep have already raked in Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. But are they letting it go to their heads? Forget it. When Bullock beat Streep for the best actress SAG trophy last Sunday, a reporter backstage told her she had become the front-runner in the awards race. Her response: She told him to shush.

They are the queens of awards season, but 10 years ago, you might never have guessed these would be the women at the podium. In youth-obsessed Hollywood, there’s always a new star on the rise, and for a time Streep and Bullock’s careers seemed to be flagging. Plus, who would have believed that Mo’Nique, best known for her tell-it-like-it-is brand of standup comedy and stint as as a reality TV host, would nail a dramatic role steeped in heartbreak?

Their key to success: keepin’ it real.

Start with their down-to-earth attitudes. Add daring performances, devotion to good causes, and their refusal to do things any way but their own. They spurn plastic surgery. They keep their private lives private. At the Golden Globes, Mo’Nique even lifted the hem of her gold Reem Acra gown to reveal unshaven legs.

But how exactly do they keep fans and critics clamoring for more? To start, they dig deep for the right roles. And if the right role isn’t around, they stay out of the spotlight.

After her turn in 2002’s “Two Weeks Notice” opposite Hugh Grant, Bullock crossed romantic comedies off her list of projects.

“They’re not funny, they’re not romantic, they’re not written well for women anymore,” she has said, explaining her decision. “It was basically all crap. I did the last good one. I’m done.”

With her stream of date movies over, she built herself back up with serious supporting roles in films such as “Crash.” Then, last year, she found a return to comedy that she actually liked. One problem: “The Proposal” was a romantic comedy, but don’t tell her that.

“It’s a comedy that has romance in it,” she has admitted. (She could say the same about 2009’s “All About Steve.”)

Still, the snarky script felt right, and she went with her gut. Also on her slate, “The Blind Side,” in which her role as an imperious Memphis interior decorator could have gone sour without the right comic touch.

The lessons in her story: Trust your impulses and work hard. “The Proposal” and “The Blind Side” made Bullock, 45, the best money of her career.

“I am Sandra Bullock, and I’m an actor,” she said, accepting her SAG Award for “The Blind Side” last weekend. “I am so proud to say that in a room full of faces that have inspired me, and allowed me six years ago to say I’m going to stop working ’cause I wasn’t doing good work, and audition again. And you say goodbye to the money, and you say goodbye to all the things that you became comfortable with.”

Meanwhile, Mo’nique, 42, turned her lowbrow image on its ear with her riveting role in “Precious” − and she didn’t do it for the prizes. In fact, she’s caught flack for not seeming like she wants an Oscar badly enough, not being willing to “campaign” for one.

“When they say campaign, I’m like, well, wait a minute,” she said on her BET talk show, “President Barack Obama had to campaign because he had something to prove: that he could do it. Well, the performance is on the screen. So at what point am I still trying to prove something?”

The remark was a little too real for certain bloggers, who sniped she should be denied a nomination until she learns to “play the game.” But that’s just it, “Precious” wasn’t a game for Mo’Nique, it was a job.

As for Streep, she’s a perennial favorite of Oscar season − but this time things are different. In Nancy Meyers?a>?? flirty romp “It’s Complicated,” Streep is suddenly the romantic ingenue, with Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in hot pursuit.

“”It’s incredible — I’m 60, and I’m playing the romantic lead in romantic comedies!” Streep trilled to Vanity Fair. “Bette Davis is rolling over in her grave.”

The same article points out that, only 15 years ago, Streep was considered too old to play Clint Eastwood?a>??s love interest in “The Bridges of Madison County,” and he had to fight for her to join the cast. (Eastwood is 19 years her senior.) The producers of “It’s Complicated” didn’t see age as an issue.

Just as important as their career choices, the three actors share a secret weapon when it comes to surviving the Hollywood grind. They have lives.

They’re married to, well, pretty regular dudes. Streep’s husband, the sculptor Don Gummer, has been by her side for over 30 years. Mo’nique’s, Sidney Hicks, has been her best friend since she was 14, and helps produce her talk show and write her jokes. Bullock’s man, Jesse James, is a frequent TV presence, but he’s no Tinseltown pretty boy. He’s a motorcycle-obsessed daredevil that Bullock met in 2005 when she set up a visit to his show, “Monster Garage,” for her 10-year-old godson.

Bullock gave viewers a glimpse of her romance when she poured out thanks to James from the SAG podium. “And to my husband, Jesse,” she said, “who works so hard all day, and you get dressed up in monkey suits, and you sit at a table with people you don’t know. … I don’t know how you do it. I love you so much, and you’re really hot.”
Movie fans crave chemistry, both on and off screen, and we tune out if it’s not there. Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt will never earn our oohs and awws. They’re too fake. And if both halves of a couple are famous, we sometimes get suspicious. We hear rumors about Jennifer Aniston canoodling with Gerard Butler and wonder − could it possibly be real? Or is it just for the publicity?

“There’s not as much intrigue when one person is a ‘civilian,’” says Irin Carmon, a writer for entertainment site “That also allows us to believe that it’s a genuine marriage instead of a career move. [Bullock, Streep and Mo’Nique] didn’t marry to gain some exponential celebrity wattage.”

As the award nominations started rolling in, Carmon asked her readers to explain exactly what makes an actor such as Bullock so popular.

“She is very I’m-every-woman,” wrote one, “at least the woman you realistically wish you could be. Smart, determined, down-to-earth, funny and oh yeah, beautiful but naturally and effortlessly so.”

Another: “Most actresses say, ‘I don’t really like the Hollywood scene, I’m more at home with my jeans and my dogs.’ I actually believe Sandra Bullock.”

A third had a personal take: “Sandra Bullock is incredibly humble. My friend is a hostess at the restaurant she owns in Austin called Bess Bistro and says she drops by a lot and gets to know everyone really well.”

That humility shows. Mo’Nique spent her SAG acceptance speech thanking the less appreciated members of the “Precious” cast, including the little girl, Quishay Powell, who played her granddaughter.

Bullock also chose to share her spotlight. She arranged a gala premiere of “The Blind Side” in New Orleans to benefit Warren Easton High, a school she’s taken under her wing since Hurricane Katrina. She brought along the cast, Saints quarterback Drew Brees − now headed to the Super Bowl − and even the school marching band to play as the audience exited the theater. And she’s not hoarding those box office bucks. This month, after the earthquake struck Haiti, she gave $1 million to Doctors Without Borders.

“It’s not like I’ve had the ability to hang out with A-list Hollywood actresses, so I don’t know the personalities of the rest of them,” says the real-life Leigh Anne Tuohy, the model for Bullock’s “Blind Side” role. “Sandy is a wonderful person.”

Streep’s causes include environmental and arts organizations. With Equality Now, she works for women’s rights around the world.

But the Real Women of Hollywood aren’t only in front of the camera. Helping them succeed are directors such as “It’s Complicated” creator Nancy Meyers, who cracked the ceiling of romantic-comedy cliché when she paired Diane Keaton, then 57, and Jack Nicholson, then 66, in 2003’s sex comedy “Something’s Gotta Give.”

On the serious side of the aisle is Kathryn Bigelow, whose war drama “The Hurt Locker” has been hailed as one of the finest films about combat in Iraq. She didn’t snag the Golden Globe − blame the accolades heaped on “Avatar” director James Cameron, her ex-husband − but she’s as real as they get.

This recognition of realness bodes well for stars such as Reese Witherspoon, Catherine Keener, Vera Farmiga. And hey, the leader of the next generation of the Queens of Real, Maggie Gyllenhaal, makes her home in Brooklyn. Glenn Close is still tearing up “Damages.” Sissy Spacek is back in the spotlight on “Big Love.” Betty White’s lifetime achievement award at the SAG Awards shows how long a career you can enjoy with the right spark and savvy.

Just take it from the singular way she lauded her “Proposal” co-star Bullock:

“With all the wonderful things that have happened to her,” said White, “isn’t it heartening to see how far a girl as plain as she is can go?”

Source: Daily News

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Current Projects
Untitled Tupperware Movie
Sandra Bullock as Brownie Wise
The story of how marketing executive Brownie Wise boosted the sales of the plastic containers invented by Earl Silas Tupper in the 1950s by setting up "Tupperware Paties".
Release: Unknown
Status: In development
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Biography
  • More Info | Photos | IMDb

  • Bird Box
    Sandra Bullock as Malorie
    A woman and a pair of children are blindfolded and make their way through a dystopian setting along a river.
    Release: December 21, 2018
    Genre: Drama, Horror
  • More Info | Photos | IMDb

  • Ocean's Eight
    Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean
    Spin-off of the Ocean's Trilogy, directed by Gary Ross.
    Release: 2018
    Status: Released
    Genre: Comedy, Drama
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