Bullock 'Speeds' onto the fast track


Sandra Bullock is on the fast track to fame.

The actress hurtled into the big time on board that now-famous bus in "Speed." Now she's starring in the spring's best romantic comedy, "While You Were Sleeping," due tomorrowday, and she has two more movies clinched after that.

"Never, in a million years, did I think a bus movie would open every door I ever possibly wanted to have open," she says with a wide grin.

"I'm a bit odd. I'm a basic person. I like basic food, simple tastes. I like things I understand, things (and people) I can identify and not have to question their motives," says Ms. Bullock, 28. "My friends and parents are brutally honest and you always know where you stand. . . . I'm one of those people who used to be really worried about what everybody thought and once I started getting my feelings hurt a lot I said, 'You know what? I've got to get over it,' so I just isolated myself from it."

She says this with almost no pauses -- the punctuation has been added for clarity. But her enthusiasm is infectious.

Probably the best thing for her was being born into a loving but vigilant family. Her mother is a German opera singer, her father a vocal coach. "I come from a strong upbringing," she says, "very strict and strong upbringing, good, solid morals and good examples."

But there's more to Ms. Bullock than living up to her parents' expectations. She's a gutsy woman with a slightly manic touch. When she applied for a bar-tending-waitress job she lied about her qualifications.

"I said I'd bar tended. How hard could it be? You pour some rum and Coke into a glass. But when they start asking for fancy-schmancy things -- it was, 'What is that?' People were very patient. They wanted their drinks: 'Well, it's these ingredients . . .' "

A small off-Broadway play that earned good reviews prompted Ms. Bullock to trek through the rain with her review in hand and pester agents. "They said, 'This imbecile has come in here with this review. We gotta give her a chance.' "

They did give her a chance. And she is still with the people she started with. "Agents, managers, they were people who started on the bottom with me and we worked our way up," she says.

She played Kiefer Sutherland's lost love in "The Vanishing," portrayed a lonely scientist in "Love Potion 9" and the sympathetic waitress in "Wrestling Earnest Hemingway," "which is one of my favorite experiences in my entire life that you don't expect to happen to you till you're 80," she says.

She met actor Tate Donovan when they did "Love Potion 9" together, but Ms. Bullock did not let on that she found him attractive.

"I don't assume somebody likes me until they basically send off flares," she laughs, "and go, 'I am attracted to you.'

"He had to come to me after months of knowing me. I said, 'What's wrong?' He said, 'I'm attracted to you.' I'm like, 'You're kidding! You like me?' Then as soon as he said that, I fell head over heels. [He had] everything I admired as a friend -- I was very shut off to anything else -- I just flipped over him."

They broke up last summer. That was a very hard time, she confides. "It wasn't like a thing that was over and done with," she says sitting upright. "because that will never be over and done with. In my eyes that's the greatest thing I've ever experienced, but it just needed for me to step back and allow him to take his course. . . . There's always one person in your life that you meet that just moves you regardless of what happens," she says, more slowly now.

"There's something between you two and that's how I feel with him. He's the most extraordinary person I've ever met."

Hollywood has a way of chewing up fresh stars like Ms. Bullock. "Young people can get lost [in Hollywood] because they don't have a good foundation, in general," she nods.

"A lot of them come to this because it defines who you are, or to find a place for you. If you're different or unhappy you can just use that in your work. But if you add fame, it's just going to magnify the unhappiness. Always, always, always."

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