On one of the coolest streets in Austin, a go-to for the hip and the hungry. This is Walton’s Fancy and Staple, a café and flower shop in a century-old brick building owned and restored by actress-producer Sandra Bullock. “I love the idea of finding purpose for something that was originally created for another purpose,” she said.
This place, which was once a horse-and-carriage repair shop, is now a destination for local foodies.
“To me, this is just as fulfilling as making movies,” Bullock told correspondent Tracy Smith.
And if you know her movies, that’s really saying something.
In “The Lost City” (from CBS’ parent company, Paramount), Bullock stars as a kidnapped romance novelist who –along with her book’s cover model, Channing Tatum – fights her way back to civilization through some harrowing and comically cringe-worthy situations .
Smith said of the leeches scene, “It’s refreshing that the person taking their clothes off is the guy.”
“Because nobody wanted me to do it,” said Bullock. “You think I’m kidding? I’m not! And Channing was the one willing to work out all the time. I was, like, ‘I’m not willing.'”
It’s the latest chapter in a career that’s taken her from a speeding city bus in 1994’s “Speed,” to an even more harrowing trip in 2013’s “Gravity.” Of course, she’s also known for her brand of physical comedy. It’s something she says she learned at an early age, thanks to her mom from her.
“My mother had no sense of humor, unless you hurt yourself, and then she would laugh her ass off,” Bullock said. “So, I realized the way to my mother’s heart was through physical comedy.”
“So, would you do pratfalls?”
“I would fall all the time!”
And it’s fair to say the film world fell for her: She’s made four dozen-plus movies, earned countless accolades, but also had her share of some real-world grief.
Smith asked, “Play along with me: on a scale of 1-10, how’s life now?”
Bullock deliberated. “I’d say it’s, you know, it’s my life, so it’s about a 9.2.”
“That’s very specific! Why 9.2?”
“Because the other shoe will drop. It will.”
The other shoe seemed to drop hardest in 2010. It started happily enough, with the surprise adoption of her first child. “He was unexpected, he was not planned. I got a call one day, ‘Your placement is here,’ and that’s after years after having filed it, years.”
“Oh my gosh. Then just out of the blue, boom?”
“It literally was out of the blue. And so, I was handed a plastic bag and a child.”
And a few weeks later, with the adoption still a secret, she was handed an Oscar for “The Blind Side.”
But even during her acceptance speech, she said her mind was on her baby: “All I kept thinking about was, ‘He’s at home.’ Like, I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I was there, I just wanted to go home. And then I was sewn in the dress. I was sewn in the dress, and I had to get myself out of the dress, but all I wanted to do was just go home and feed Lou.”
Smith asked, “How do you get yourself out of a dress when you’re sewn in?”
“You just rip it,” she replied. “I ripped it. And then I asked them to fix it. I go, ‘I don’t know what happened! All the beads came off!'”
And days later, the wheels came off her marriage to reality star Jesse James, leaving her to raise her infant son alone – and shut out the rest of the world as best she could.
Bullock said, “I mean, so much had happened. How do you process grief and not hurt your child in the process? It’s a newborn, they take on everything that you’re feeling. So, my obligation was to him and not tainting the first year of his life with my grief.”
Bullock has since adopted a little girl as well. (She asked us not to use photos of her kids from her.)
She says that even in her privileged world, she’s had a real taste of the battles other mothers fight every day: “You know, my children are Black. I have a level of defense that millions of mothers have that aren’t white. You know, I have an understanding of how scary it is, and I just get really emotional, because I think of hundreds of years of women who’ve never been able to relax into motherhood.
“Worried about their kids?”
“Yes, in a way that we as white women have not had to worry. You worry about other things, but if you really, really, really take a minute and think about hundreds of years of mothers not being able to enjoy, freely, the birth of a child – their son becoming a young man – all of those things represent fear and loss.”
Career-wise, Bullock wanted to give the audience something to smile about with her latest movie. But she says “The Lost City,” which will be in theaters this week, will be her last film, at least for now. “I can be creative, I can be part of a community, but right now, work in front of the camera needs to take a pause,” she said.
“For how long?” asked Smith.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Until I don’t feel like I feel now when I’m in front of a camera.”
“I want to be at home. I’m not doing anyone any favors who’s investing in a project if I’m saying, ‘I just want to be at home.’ ‘Cause I was always running, I was always running to the next thing. I just want to be present, and responsible for one thing.”
“So, you knew shooting this movie this is gonna be the last one for a while?”
“Yeah. And I don’t know what ‘a while’ is. I don’t know what that is. I would just love to clean out the basement.”
“You’re being literal?”
“I’m literal!” Bullock said. “I have a room where all my s*** goes, for all the years. I want to go through it, and I want to see if I remember any of it.”
Her family comes first, at home, and at Walton’s Fancy and Staple, where her sister Gigi designs some of the pastries. Bullock showed Smith the golden eggs: “They’re unassuming, but they’re my sister’s recipe, a combination of a churro, a donut, and a snickerdoodle.”
Smith asked, “Are you a sweet person?”
“Yeah, big time. I have a problem. Obviously!”
Or, just maybe, Sandra Bullock knows when something is sweet, and has learned to cherish it.
Smith asked, “What do you see out in front of you now?”
“She’s like, ‘I see a crystal ball…'” Bullock laughed. “I don’t know! That’s what’s a little scary about it, I don’t know. Watch: six months from now I can’t handle this anymore, I need to go back to work. But I don’t want to do that. If that feeling comes, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to rely on work to fill me. But I just don’t see a lot, other than everyone under my roof. That’s it. I know it’s not very sexy, but you know what? It’s mine.”
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Story produced by John D’Amelio. Editor: Steven Styler.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism