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Miss Congeniality 2 - Sandra Bullock Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Gracie Hart won our hearts and worldwide audiences about five years ago. What was the appeal of giving us a new chapter in Gracie’s life?
A:
The luxury we had – well, I don’t know if it’s a luxury – was we made a film, or I wanted to make a film, with Marc Lawrence that they weren’t really writing for women. The guys got to do the broad comedies but the girls weren’t allowed to do them, so it was sort of a crap shoot to begin with, so its success was not something that anyone was banking on.
And so the pressure to make a sequel wasn’t on us at all, so we never even considered it, even after we’d finished the film, no one had even brought it up.
But about a year later, Marc Lawrence and I work together a lot and we found ourselves joking about what would have happened had an FBI agent really done what Gracie had done and thwarted a bomb threat and saved Miss United States in front of the cameras, because that happens all the time!
In this day and age, the media – not you guys, of course, but just the media in general, morning shows – she would’ve been on every talk show.
So it was that premise that we expanded on and it just became something we found ourselves talking about more than not talking about, and he said: "Why don’t I put something on paper and see if it actually stands up on its own?"
I’ve done one other sequel and learned that unless it’s on the page, there’s no point in doing it.
So we said if this film could stand on its own without the first one having been made, then that’s something exciting to do. And I had enough distance, I’d done a few other things, so I didn’t get tired of her, I got to rejoin her and appreciate how great a character it was - male or female, just a great comedic character that he had written and where we could take her.
So we were in a great position. There was no pressure, there was no studio telling us what to do, that they needed a follow-up because they didn’t quite know what follow-up you would make to something like the first film.

Q. At the end of the first film, Gracie had a more conventional happy ending, she got the guy, she discovered her inner princess. But that’s all taken away from her in the second and she ends up single and advising a young girl that she doesn’t have to change her appearance or pretty herself up in any way. Did you feel that the message in the first was wrong and you wanted to change that somehow?
A.
Not at all. The first one wasn’t a romantic comedy; it was a comedy that had an element of intimacy of love involved.
Every film has love in it but my question is why does a female-driven film have to have the girl get the guy? Does that make her less of a lead character or less of a woman if she doesn’t have the guy?
The guy doesn’t have to get the girl either to be complete and I think the first one was absolutely everything that I wanted to say, but comedy is only funny when you’re kicked in the gut a little bit.
If everything was blissfully happy and hunky-dory, there’s nothing to hang the comedy on. And very much like life, every time things go well, the next day something goes into the crapper so… [laughter].
It makes for better comedy and it just was a direction that the story went into. We said if we wanted to continue the story we wanted to make it the most entertaining and what happens in life? You think you have it all figured out and then the next day you realise you don’t have anything figured out.
I again say, why as a woman do I need to have the guy to be a viable woman? There’s a lot of love in the film, I think there’s a lot of great love in the film, and I think every film has an element of love in it: love of country, love of self, love of someone else, love of family.
But I think in order for a person to be complete, you need to be severely broken up with, in order to understand what you’re made of. It’s just another element of comedy.

Q. Were you not just a tiny bit gutted? Because us girls, we like our happy endings, a nice kiss at the end…
A.
Well there’s a great happy ending and there’s a lot of love at the end…

Q. Were you not just a little bit gutted that you didn’t have a gorgeous leading man to…
A:
I’m the producer; I get to do exactly what I want! [Laughter] And I asked for that not to happen. We have Enrique, he’s very handsome. And someone does get the guy and he does get the girl at the end, it’s just not Gracie.

Q. And you weren’t tempted to bring him back then as a cameo to show him what he was missing...
A:
Again, I’m the producer. [Laughs] This script ended up exactly the way I wanted and I did have to do some fighting for that. For that very reason, I just keep wondering why do you have to have a guy, you personally? Are you incomplete without a man? Are you less of a woman because someone doesn’t happen to be intimately involved with you at the time?
I think we are doing a disservice to people by saying that without another half, you are less than. I think if we say to people, especially young girls like in the film, it wasn’t so much that without a guy you’re nothing, it’s don’t conform, be who you are, love yourself and be true to who you are as a unique individual rather than what the magazines tell you you should be and life will make a lot more sense. But it’s hard to ignore all of those aspects in society.
We all question ourselves looking at a magazine, I know I do. “God, I wish I was blonde and looked like this!” I’m never gonna be a blonde, no matter how hard I try it’s just not who I am, so the message as a man or a woman is that it’s hard to stay true to who you are and be unique, but if you can do it, it’s gonna be a better path for you, it’s gonna feel better, you’re not gonna go against your grain.

Q. Your character and Regina King’s character go from hating each other and then you’re best of friends in the end. What was it like working together on set?
A:
Fantastic! We had written this whole script. When Marc and I put it together, we put something in there and then thought… now we have to cast it! Regina was hard to find and once we found her everything made sense but up until her I was feeling maybe we’d written a dynamic that might not be castable.
We didn’t even audition together first, we had a 45 minute tea session! We divulged our entire lives to each other and found how similar they were in ideas of what we wanted as women and career and family and men… you know, stuff! And I so respected the woman that I knew the audition was going to be crap! I knew it was just going to be horrible and I’d be depressed and in she walked and we started reading the scenes together and everything clicked. It makes the whole process worth it.
I wanted an equal partner to carry this film with and it was just absolute joy because we’d found all the other characters and it wasn’t easy finding everyone else. That was just the last main chunk of the film we hadn’t found and I just loved working with her.
You can’t fist-fight with someone and do it as well as we did and not like them, because we’re gonna hurt each other! [Laughs] There was a lot of forgiving we had to ask for at the end of the work day but I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than Regina King. She’s a great actress.

Q. Sandra, Gracie in this one starts off as a very nice human being but in the middle part of the film she’s really quite an evil bitch!
A:
I like that you said that, yeah! [Laughter]

Q. So fame changes her. I’m not suggesting that you were an evil bitch but…
A:
We know what you’re saying, it’s OK!

Q: When you really hit the big time with Speed, did that change you in any way, could you see where she was coming from?
A:
Sure! The whole reason for writing this storyline is we don’t allow things to just be unique and as they are, we want to market them and make the most out of them and put them out to sell themselves. We naturally do that nowadays.
When all that external stuff happened for me – it wasn’t really during Speed, it was a couple of films in – you suddenly realise that things are not as they used to be and there’s a lot of people around you suggesting things, who seem to know better than you.
Nine times out of ten those people suggesting things are making suggestions that benefit them rather than benefit you in the long run and you don’t realise that that’s what’s happening because you’re lucky to be working!
I was excited to have jobs and I would just take them as they came and I was just happy to be a part of the game. You don’t realise half way in that you’ve really gone off the track that you were supposed to go on but I have to say that I would do that again, that same path, because had I not gone into left-field I never would have figured out what it was that I wasn’t and figured out what it was that I was supposed to be doing.
So thankfully I found that I’d really gone off into left-field. I didn’t go as far as Gracie - I don’t really want my real life to be a comedy like that! – but it worked in this film to take someone we love so much like Gracie in that direction, to make a point.

Q. Are you learning by your mistakes, then?
A:
Absolutely! Absolutely. And anyone who says they’re not affected by it, no matter how grounded you think you are, you are affected negatively and in a positive way by it. It’s something that creeps up on you and you don’t even realise it’s happening because everything shifts.
There’s a perception that’s changed about you. Fame and success and all this stuff is not something that you can control. It’s your gift but it’s going to go away as quickly as it arrived so you can’t really hang much on it. And when you do and it goes away, I think that’s when people see their lives bottom out. I know it’s fleeting. I know its come and go.

Q: This is probably the most gay-friendly FBI movie I have ever seen, because everything is gay icons, gay-friendly music, gay venues, there is a gay character, Joel, obviously…
A.
Joel’s gay?! [Laughter]

Q: He definitely looks gay-friendly…
A:
Oh, he’s gay!

Q: What I’m wondering is, because you’re producing the movie itself, speaking about marketing the film towards a certain audience, would that be more marketable in the gay area or is that just sometimes making an entertaining thing, just portraying the FBI more gay-friendly than it actually is or could be.
A:
Joel, Pam and Janine are based on real-life Joel, Pam and Janine. Joel in real life is gay. Joel does my wardrobe for films. Pamela is Pamela in real life and she does my make-up. Janine does my hair. So, I didn’t market Joel to be gay. Joel decided to be gay long before Joel met me! [Laughter]
So there wasn’t intent to market anything, it’s just based on a real person. A little more eccentric than real-life Joel… I take that back! [Laughs] Joel is a unique but Diedrich took his own idea of him. He watched how Joel did his things.
The music… those are some of my favourite songs. I had no idea it was marketed towards a gay audience but look, everyone likes to dance, gay and straight, so I wanted a great dance mix CD that you could throw in your car and say, 'Oh my God, I remember that song!'
I wanted Having My Baby playing in the old age song just because everyone who denies that they know the lyrics to ‘Having My Baby’ is a liar. It’s the greatest song of all time! [Laughs]
A lot of these things were things that I love and I don’t think it’s marketed for a gay-specific audience but, you know what, we’re all in this together: gay, straight, black, white, green, yellow… I want everyone to have a good time!
And again, Joel was gay before Joel became a character in the film. He has no problem with me saying that, he admits that as well.

Q: Can you laugh about yourself, for example, running in those horrible costumes or can you only remember…
A:
The pain?! I oddly am really good in heels. I don’t know if it’s a gene. I think it’s my mother’s gene because she did everything in high heels, to my annoyance. Everything was beautifully done in high heels. So I managed to run in high heels rather well.
The costumes were incredibly painful. The ‘Big Bird’ costume, the showgirl outfit… I’ve never been in more pain than I have in that. Diedrich as well, bless his heart, he’s a guy who had to shove himself into that outfit! But there’s a reason those showgirls in Vegas walk like they do. Nothing moves from the waist up because those headdresses weight 30 to 60 pounds. So everything that we designed about those costumes with out great costume designer, Deena Appel, was for humour.
The funnier we could make the outfit, the more shocking, the better it would be and I suffered through the pain for my art!
So, of course I can laugh at myself. I wasn’t laughing when I was in the showgirl outfit, I was doing a lot of complaining, but as long as it looked good and funny then I was willing to suffer for my art!

Q: An extension of the question about fame. I wondered if you had any personal memories of the first time you were recognised in public after you became a well-known actress.
A:
Mine was slow because I was working consistently after Speed came out. Mine wasn’t “Oh my God, things are different!” I just noticed that the interest in things that I found completely absurd peaked.
My neighbours sold me out. I had a wedding in my back yard that my neighbours thought was my wedding so they sold out my supposed wedding, called in every paparazzi from every tabloid and had them sitting in the window awaiting my walking down the aisle.
It ended up to be a wedding between two men!
You can see that they were disappointed but what they did do is show the wedding and had some great wedding pictures for the people who got married, but I was just shocked at the level to which people would sell you down the river.
The one thing that I did learn, which was a very painful lesson, which I still haven’t quite learned, is that sarcasm does not translate into print. Because I will answer every question with a sarcastic answer if it’s something silly or something you’re trying to avoid talking about with a joke. It does not translate. It comes across incredibly literal and it’s humiliating and I don’t know how to stop doing that because it’s me, it’s press, we’re supposed to be entertaining, you have to sell a magazine or a news show. It translates on camera; it just doesn’t translate into print, so that’s one that I’m still trying to deal with.

Q: From what you describe it sounds like one of the hardest things to come to terms with being famous, is not becoming totally cynical about the…
A:
Yeah. Becoming illiterate has been the key to happiness within this business! You really have to stop reading because it’s just one person’s opinion and not everyone’s going to like your work and not everyone’s going to like you.
I have a job to do, which is to sell this film, but I love this film and it’s my film and it’s Marc’s film and it’s everyone’s who’s been involved in this film since its inception.
We knew the audience we were making it for, we just didn’t know it would go beyond that audience and that makes me happy. My job in this film is to make people laugh.
You might not like me but William Shatner’s hilarious, everyone loves William Shatner. There’s characters for everyone and I’m totally fine with the fact that the world’s not going to love me! And once you come to terms with that, it gets a lot easier, definitely.

Q. Not many film actresses embrace comedy that much whereas 20-30 years ago we had Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and you’re carrying the can, it seems. Now why do you think it seems still quite a rare genre for A-list actresses?
A:
Writers. There aren’t great writers who can write well for women. There wasn’t a demand for it and I think it was because once the action film hit 15-20 years ago, that was the genre and women were stuck in the wife/girlfriend/victim role, hanging off something or other, and there wasn’t a lot of comedy to write. It wasn’t also demanded because that wasn’t what was selling at the box office. Everything is relative to box office.
I got lucky, you know? I don’t wait for things to come to me because if you do you’re going to be fighting after what everyone else wants. To find a great role is rare in this business for men and women. When there’s a great role we all dive for the same one!
Comedy just requires someone who writes well for both men and women. Marc Lawrence wrote the comedy for everyone in this film. He just has that gift and it’s rare, really rare, but especially as a woman to find comedy that’s written well.
I always migrate to the comedy that’s written for me. I often ask them to send me what they have for the men and think 'can we change it for a woman?'
And now they’re more apt to do that because they’re finding that there is an audience for that. It’s just finding a good writer.

Q. This question might be boring for 90% of the audience but we know you have German roots. What do you do when you feel them…
A:
When I feel my roots?!

Q: …when you feel the craving for sausages…
A:
It’s funny you should bring that up! There’s no secret source. Half of my family’s still in Germany so whatever Gummi Barchen or Maoam (Haribo sweets) that I need at the time, we quickly make a call and a shipment is sent. The tricky part is the Nurnberger Bratwurste. You’re not allowed to ship meat across the waters. That’s a big no-no. We’re allowed to ship everything else, oddly, but not meat. So yeah, I have a source! [Laughs]
I have three sources, because at Christmas we have the traditional bratwurst, sauerkraut, the gurken salat and all that good stuff.
We have to have our traditional Christmas which is celebrated on the evening of the 24th and without bratwurst, you don’t have Christmas. So the sources start sending about a month ahead of time and if anyone in here stops that source by printing this story, I will hunt you down and I will kill you!
It is a big thing. My sister and I have this thing. We set out the feelers and get the bratwurst and inevitably they arrive. I do think there’s a lot of good sausages that come to the States but the Nurnberger Bratwurste still haven’t made it, which I don’t understand! There’s a huge market for it.

Q: Maybe you ought to do something about it.
A:
I think it’s your job! And that was not a boring question, it’s a very important question, so if someone in here has a connection that can market only the Nurnberger Bratwurste and have them brought to the United States, I will guarantee I will promote them and get behind the sale of the sausages!

Q: This is a follow up to the pain question…
A:
Oh good, I love pain questions, because I have so much of it! [Laughs]

Q: How hard was it to shoot the underwater scene because it really made me hold my breath!
A:
It made you hold your breath? We were in there for three days! The first couple of hours was really fun…
The tank is 30 feet deep. They’ve shot extraordinary films in there and they built this extraordinary set. It was warm water and it was also colour-treated so there was a certain coloured look that our Director of Photography Peter Menzies wanted in the water.
We would get hypothermic. We were in there for at least 12 hours a day. The third day we were in there over 17 hours!
But I’m a SCUBA-diver and so is William Shatner, so we felt a level of comfort because we had regulators attached in various places if the boat didn’t come up in time, because we were submerged most of the time.
I love that sort of thing but after about the tenth hour I was completely over it! My hair had completely stripped itself of its colours because I coloured it all those fun colours. I got out and it was lemon yellow, like old Barbie hair after 20 years, all matted to one side. That was my side. Again, willing to suffer for my art, talk about what kind of martyr I am.
You’re so tired, but as long as you get the shot, that’s all you care about, and you’re already in there so you’re not going to complain.
It’s tricky but it’s an amazing thing when you step back and look at this massive tank, this massive undercarriage of the boat that they built. Our production designer Maher (Ahmad) created this life under water on hydraulics that was just amazing, so you just had to keep reminding yourself that other people worked just as hard to make it look like this. So when I started to complain I would quickly stop.

Q: Could we talk a bit about William Shatner? Was it hard to get him aboard again?
A:
No, it was so easy! William Shatner, to me, is a genius. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Everything that he does comedically in his craft, he knows what he’s doing. He’s having this incredible resurgence in his career.
He’s got this extraordinary TV show that he just won the Golden Globe for. He’s a great guy. Off camera, he’s a great guy to hang out with. You love going to dinner with him. You love dragging him to places to listen to music, which I did in Austin when we shot the first one.
He enjoys his life thoroughly and he’s an extraordinary comedian who makes it look effortless and I don’t think he’s gotten the credit he deserves. I think he’s just divine!

Q: Is there an anecdote about William Shatner that you could share?
A:
You know what? We worked so hard on this film that nothing really entertaining happened the minute we stopped because I was still working. So everyone else went out to dinner and for wine and I’m still working. Again, martyr, martyr!
Working with him is a joy. I don’t have an anecdote except that he makes everything better than the material is and in comedy that’s a rarity. I’m glad his career’s doing what it’s doing.
His wife had this great party for him to congratulate him on his Golden Globe. We were there at his house and you saw all these massively famous people and you realise you’re all here because they adore him, and see the same things I see in him, and are just so happy that he’s still in this business. It’s a testament to the man when you look at the people that adore him. It says a lot.
It was so easy to get him back and if we do ‘Granny Gracie’, there’ll be ‘Granny Stan’ right there along with her. We’re a team. You can’t do this without him.

Q: Gracie decides to embrace this thing after an evening reading fan mail. Have there been fan letters that you’ve received that have particularly touched you?
A:
Well Gracie’s embraced it for the wrong reasons which makes it funnier!
There’s things that you get to see doing what we do that most people will never even know about in their lifetime and we have such an abundance of stuff. The opportunities that we have are extraordinary and you can either ignore them or you can take advantage of them.
I choose to take advantage of them just because you get up every day and you’re tired, like this morning I was like 'Oh my God, the past year’s hit me. I’m tired!'
But look at what I get to do. I’m getting on a plane to Berlin today. I’m going to be in Berlin for all of 18 hours but I get to enjoy things that no-one ever gets to do in their lifetime and I have to remember that I’m in this job because I’m lucky.
There’s a lot of other people far more talented than I am that should be in this job. I know it, but I work really hard too and I will continue to work hard and appreciate what I have.
There is stuff that we get that is ridiculous and people give you more free things in this business… anything that I mention, I’ll get free. Nurnberger Bratwurste, Nurnberger Bratwurste! [Laughter]
It’s absolute excess, what we have, and there’s nothing to complain about. The hours that we work don’t validate the stuff that we get at all.

Q: Is there a typical kind of Sandra Bullock fan that emerges from your fan letters?
A:
Sane! As loopy as I am, the kindness comes in. My favourites are from kids, because they’re so honest. If you did something they hated, they let you know, they say “That sucked!” And you’re going “OK, OK, what was it you didn’t like, what happened?” They’re really truthful.
Adults, we lie and we suck up and I’ve seen adults say, “Oh my God, I hate this actor” and two minutes later I’ve seen them say “Oh my God, you’re a genius, I love your work!” You’re like, “Wait a minute, he hates you, he just said he hates you!”
We lie by nature, we’re not free like kids are and kids are the most honest people. I appreciate everything that they say and do and write and if you can do something to make them feel good, it’s really, really rewarding. The fan letters from the kids are just the best and the artwork is much better than the adults! Adults don’t send artwork. The crayon drawings that I have are extraordinary!

Q: The film includes a rather memorable chase scene through the Venetian Hotel. I just wondered how much of a treat it was to sit astride a living legend like Dolly Parton and how you got her involved?
A:
I sent her a letter. We wrote the script and then realised we actually had to get her, and we didn’t think we’d get her in a million years, and then I wrote her a letter with a lot of pleases in it and she wrote back on her own stationary saying she’d love to.
It always freaks me out when things were easy because I’m used to trouble and having to beg, having to go to the alternate choices. In this case we wrote Las Vegas, Dolly Parton, Gracie’s partner. All these things that you don’t assume you’re going to get. But the Venetian allowed us to shoot whatever we wanted to shoot, in the casinos, in their square, in their lobbies. They shut down their Treasure Island show for us, they shut down their streets, and that gives you tens of millions of dollars worth of production value just to be there. You can just point your camera anywhere. It’s Las Vegas, and you can’t build that on a stage!
It was extraordinary to straddle Dolly Parton and do what I did to her! I’m literally lying on top of Dolly Parton in the square and I don’t feel comfortable with this but there we were, that’s my job! And she looks at me and says, “We’re going to put the Madonna-Britney Spears kiss to shame on this.” And I think “You rock, you just rock!” She was everything you’d want her to be and more, consistently. It’s like having royalty on set. She’s our queen and she was there for two days.
All the men were flustered and all the girls realised, 'I’m not girly enough! We need to be more like Dolly!'
And she just has a great sense of humour about herself which makes you love her even more. She’s extraordinary.

Q: You’d assume that filming in Vegas would be very good but, as the producer, were there any logistical problems that you couldn’t get around?
A:
They were freakishly helpful! We had less problems in Vegas than we did shooting in Los Angeles. We realised that people come to Vegas don’t come to watch a film being filmed, they come to win money. We never had a crowd! Usually when you’re filming on a street somewhere there’s people who want to watch. We never had that, even in the casino. There’d be a couple of people walking by and stopping but we were pretty much ignored!
They just made it unbelievably easy. I think our biggest obstacle was for Diedrich, who had to pour himself into that showgirl outfit, he had to do a little waxing! That was a big obstacle for Diedrich! That was our biggest thing. We knew he went waxing the day before. We didn’t know how he’d be feeling the next day. Was he sore? That was our big obstacle!

Q: So is there any danger Gracie might get a mission to London some time soon?
A:
If London was financially feasible… are you kidding?! We tried to do ‘Gracie Goes To Europe’ and it was so expensive, so I think that if this one is successful, maybe it would be easier to talk the studio into coughing up the cash to let us go. I think it’d be fantastic!

Q: I was just going to ask a William Shatner question. Why do you ask him ‘Bubba’?!
A:
I don’t remember! It started in Austin but I don’t recall. I’m trying to think of what would have happened to make me call him ‘Bubba’, but I don’t recall what it was.
The man is game for anything. I’d take him to rock shows and he’d come back the next day just talking about how disgusting the show was and how he didn’t understand why I brought him there. He’ll listen to any kind of music, go have any kind of food, experience anything. I was trying to think if something came out of that and I don’t recall. I don’t think he remembers either but it was something that happened in Austin when we shot the first one.

Q: There’s a scene quite early in the movie where your character is recognised in the bank and it jeopardises the FBI operation. Has there been a moment in your life when you really wished you hadn’t been recognised?
A:
Any time I leave the house! Because I don’t have the hair and make-up team available in everyday life to fix what came undone the night before.
Inevitably, that is when you have a photographer taking a picture! I have dogs who’ll sleep on my clothes; you don’t remember so you put on your sweatshirt, you go to get your coffee, your hair’s all over to the side.
You just have to give in to the fact that you’re gonna look like crap nine times out of ten when you’re in a magazine. You go on vacation, they shoot you from behind, they add a little bulk to your ass and then for the next year, your ass is on the cover! You’re like, “Wait a minute!” I’m holding it up going, “I don’t mind that I have a normal body, but I know my ass is not that big and I need validation for that!” I doubt myself. And so then I don’t go on vacation anymore and I don’t wear bathing suits!
It’s just part of the job and it’s their job to make me look as unattractive as possible and I figure, why fight it? Just look your worst when you go out and make expectations really low. The only time I look good is when I do these things, because then you have hair and make-up. Of course, now I’m saying I think I look good! (Laughter) I look better than I do when I leave the house in the morning!
So that, inevitably, becomes a part of the objective when you’re a celebrity. They find you, see you at your worst and photograph it and then sell it in a magazine. You just have to become comfortable with that, however you can.

Q: How do you?
A.
Like I said, becoming illiterate! I don’t get the magazines, but then when you’re in a place with them, you immediately go to the magazines and you’re flipping through. You believe all of the stories on everyone else! You’re saying, “This is false about me” but then you’re going, “Oh, my God!” at everyone else. It’s a double edged sword. It’s just part of the job. I don’t think you ever really get used to it. You just don’t make the expectations high. Lower people’s expectations of you. I think that’s the key!

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