Sandra Bullock Interview, The Blind Side

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline sat down with Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, and director John Lee Hancock to talk about their new film, “The Blind Side.”

"The Blind Side" depicts the remarkable true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home, taken in by the Touhys, a well-to-do white family who help him fulfill his potential. At the same time, Oher's presence in the Touhys' lives leads them to some insightful self-discoveries of their own. Living in his new environment, the teen faces a completely different set of challenges to overcome. As a football player and student, Oher works hard and, with the help of his coaches and adopted family, becomes an All-American offensive left tackle.

Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, John Lee Hancock are fabulous people and we really appreciated their time. Here’s what they had to tell us:3

Q: You’re playing people who are real but aren’t famous so the audience wouldn’t know them. When you go about that, what are you looking for and how do you set about trying to capture the spirit of that person?

TIM: I think more of the spirit. I wasn’t really trying to imitate anybody. I wouldn’t want to imitate Sean for anything. I think that I can relate to him in a lot of ways. We both grew up in Louisiana. I was an athlete and he was an athlete, although I wasn’t quite the athlete that he was. And also, as a kid I remember, I’m going to give him a few years and say high school, but I remember watching him play for Ole Miss. As a kid growing up in northern Louisiana, we got to see a lot of Ole Miss games, and I have a wife that runs everything at home, so I think I can relate to Sean in a lot of ways, and the script was so well written that I just wanted to capture the essence of it and not really try to imitate anybody.

QUINTON: With me, me and Michael have a lot of similarities as far as our personalities. We’re both gentle giants, we keep to ourselves, we’re both the biggest kids in our school. I hadn’t met him, so I didn’t want to try to overact or anything or whatever. John Lee, my coach, Coach Lee, he 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.

SANDRA: That’s a tough one because I do think that I tried to get as close – 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 felt a great sense of fear in trying to tackle that person she is, but also a great sense of obligation to be true to this wonderful dynamic. John could not explain Leigh Ann to save his life, and when I met Leigh Anne, I said, “Now I know why you can’t, because she’s original.” But there’s such a dynamic that exists between those people and their children that you wanted to pay homage to them. I wanted to do it as closely as I could, so I did my best.

Q: You’re having this extraordinary career. It’s no accident. It’s not just luck. You had another huge hit with “The Proposal.” Why do you think that movie clicked so well, and what do you look for in a movie for a role these days?

SANDRA: “The Proposal,” aside from all the right people and the right elements being in the right place, I think nudity had a great deal to do with the success of that film. Had I know that, I would have done it a long time ago. And picking roles, my way of choosing them is vastly different now than it was a long time ago, but I can only be that way now because of what I’ve learned from the past. So I’m choosing now not to choose any work, because when you’ve had such a nice ride, unexpected rides and fulfilling rides, you really don’t want to take a step backwards. It’s really made me satisfied in a way that I wasn’t looking for, but I 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.

Q: When did that change take place exactly?

SANDRA: Which change?

Q: Where you said I no longer pick roles the way I used to.

SANDRA: The fact 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 don’t know. I think it was over time just having good life experiences that I was actually cognizant of in my work, and could remember and was very satisfied with and I just want to enjoy the ride instead of blasting forward and trying to fill a void that doesn’t exist in the workplace.

Q: Tim, are you going to get serious about movies and give up that country music thing that you do?

TIM: I’m not going to give up music because it pays my bills. I thought I was serious about this particular acting job. I tried to be anyway. I have to find things that fit in a time schedule that I have. I only have a few months out of the year that I’m available to do something. I was so lucky that something this great and with this quality of people to work with came along at a time that I was available to work. But I’m not going to give up music, no.

Q: So you couldn’t cancel a tour if a good movie came along?

TIM: Yeah. I could if I wanted to. It would have to be something that would be pretty hard to turn down for sure.

Q: Sandra, what was it about the character of Leigh Anne on the page, as opposed to before you actually got to meet her and work with her, that appealed to you as an actress? And secondly, you talked about being on this ride as an actor, what about as a producer? Do you want to slow down that side of your professional life as well as the acting?

SANDRA: Initially, when I was approached with the film, it was a 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 at one of our meetings, “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, 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. I don’t think I ever said yes.

JOHN: You made me beg, I remember that, several times. But after the trip to Memphis, I think you told me pretty much that day or the next that playing this role terrified you and that made you think you had to do it.

SANDRA: Yeah, I like scary films.

JOHN: You never agreed to do the movie.

SANDRA: I don’t think I ever really agreed to do the film.

JOHN: We’d go, “She’s still coming to the set, I don’t know why.”

SANDRA: “We haven’t given her the job.” (Laughs) To me, the producing falls into the same as acting. It requires so much time out of your life, and I take it very personally, I realize, 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 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.

Q: Quinton, did you speak to the real Michael? And how about your training for this, I understand you really trained hard for this?

QUINTON: The first part, no, I haven’t had a chance to speak to Michael yet. He’s been a little busy in the NFL. It’s hard to get away. 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, which the model of the plan was: if it tastes good, it’s not good for you. That was cruel and unusual punishment.

Q: For Sandra and Quinton, what was it about this story that really resonated with you the most?

SANDRA: 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, and I had a real sense of jealousy that they got to experience that and I never did as an athlete or as someone who is 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’s 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 instincts 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 story of a true life story that we’re capable of so much more than we think we are, because we don’t really live in a world that supports the good that we could do. They all want us to do something bad, so it sells some papers or some news report.

QUINTON: I would say, what attracted me to the role [was] after reading the script. That was the first I had heard of about the story. I didn’t know the story, and it’s such an inspirational story that needs to be heard. So, I wanted to portray it one, because it’s a story about someone who’s here now, as opposed to someone who is dead and gone. So 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. I wanted to be a part of bringing his story to light, because it’s the story that will inspire a lot of our youth today, I feel, because 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 the morgue, just because of how bad you had it. Everyone goes through things but they’ve got to know that it’s not going to last forever, and there’s a way out. That’s what I got from this.

Q: John, can you talk about your decision to film in Atlanta?

JOHN: On the decision to go to Atlanta, it was strictly a financial one. It was the tax rebates and credits and we were looking for a place that could double for Memphis and our specific needs of the neighborhood, the house, the private school and the projects, and Atlanta worked out very well for us.

Q: Sandra, can you talk about the local theater actors in Atlanta you worked with?

SANDRA: We just assume all the great actors are in New York first and then L.A. second, and it’s so not true. It’s a testament to John and his casting finding the best people for the role, and there’s such amazing talent everywhere. It’s exciting that now that there are these sort of new Hollywoods or new filmmaking communities that really benefit from these great faces and character actors and leading actors that just are fresh and exciting and bring an authenticity to the piece, and that’s smart casting too, and that’s John.

Q: Any good Ray McKinnon stories?

SANDRA: (Laughs) He has a nice firm tuchas. There’s a lot of good Ray stories.

TIM: I didn’t find him that firm.

SANDRA: Really? But you also have a firmer grip than I do. I just sort of gently cupped and patted. You maybe wanted to improvise some.

JOHN: I met Ray on “A Perfect World” in the early 90s. He was an actor in that movie and I had written it. So that’s how I met Ray and stayed up with him and I remember at one point a few years back he came to me and we were in the Austin Film Festival and he said, “John Lee, I did a film, a little film, it’s showing over here at this strip mall at 5 o’clock. Nobody’s gonna come. Would you do me a favor and grab some folks and come over?” I said, “Well I have a thing I’ve got to do at 5. I’ve got a speaking thing.” And he said, “Oh man, nobody’s gonna come. It’s just embarrassing. You spend all this time writing this little movie.” And, Cut To I see a picture of Ray with an Oscar with his arm around Elton John and he won an Academy Award for his short film (“The Accountant”).

Q: Quinton, what was it like for you to walk on the set with the caliber of actors and director, and what are you taking away from this experience – what did you learn from it?

QUINTON: It’s been a dream working on this set. At the same time, my heart rate has reached levels I didn’t know was possible for a person to stay alive. The first time I met Sandra was on Easter Sunday and going to the room, I’m standing outside the room for a couple of seconds, like, “Slow down, stop sweating, oh my God. I can’t breathe, the walls are moving,” and I got together in some kind of way and 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?” At that point my heart rate went back to a regular, normal pace and I felt comfortable. She’s just such a sweetheart. I’ve loved her for years. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since –

SANDRA: Don’t say you were a baby.

QUINTON: Love Potion Number Nine. And I just never imagined being able to work alongside of her in a feature film one day, starring alongside of her in a feature film one day, and it’s just been an honor. And then when I met Tim, this guy, he’s real cool, I called him pops on the set because he plays the father, but he’s more like an older brother to me. 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 and I enjoyed singing, sometimes on the set with him and hearing him sing. Because of him, I’m a fan of country music now.

SANDRA: If I can just interject, the caliber of actors that these three are, I’m speaking about the children, the caliber working with these three was extraordinary. They might not have had as many years as we do under our belt, but you’d never know that walking on the set. The love and the joy and the comfort and the professionalism that these three gave on a daily basis, the hardest part is listening and reacting to what an actor gives you, and they would 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, it was astounding. And it doesn’t require a lot of years in the business, because we’ve worked 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 cannot imagine what they’re going to accomplish..

JOHN: One thing, they are all really talented, but I have to say that Sandy is the most professional actor I’ve ever been around.

SANDRA: Thank you!

JOHN: That sets a pretty good example. You go, “Whoa, she brings her ‘A’ game every day.” There’s nobody else that could play this role.

Q: Sandra, what impact did Leigh Anne have on you? Is it that she’s so courageous? Do you now, months later, think “I should do that because that’s what Leigh Anne would do”? Do you ever hear her in your head? Has she ever tipped the scales for you?

SANDRA: WWLAT do? That’s what I would say on set. “What would Leigh Anne do?” The nice thing is we get to play these people and get to experience lives that we normally would never come in contact with. And the beauty of Leigh Anne was, one of my biggest questions was how people use their faith in their religion as a banner and then they don’t do the right thing. But they go, “I’m a good Christian, and I go to church, and this is the way you should live your life,” and I told Leigh Anne, I said, and that was in a live interview we had, I said, “One of my largest concerns stepping into this was that whole banner-hold.” I said, “It scared me because I’ve had experiences that haven’t been great. I don’t buy a lot of people who use that as their shield,” and she was so open and honest and forthright, and I said, “Wow, I’ve finally met someone who practices but doesn’t preach.” We’re so quick to tell people how to live their lives and I’m so lucky that I’ve been able to stay on my path, even though I’ve deviated sometimes, but I’ve never felt like I was okay by 100 percent, didn’t really matter, but then you meet someone who blazes trails and they do it as a family and you feel validated for taking your trip rather than someone else’s. In terms of what she’s getting, she goes “This is the last time I’m doing this. I’m not doing a press junket anymore, this is it. This is your thing.” I consistently say, “This is your story, it’s not my story.” But she has no idea the path she’s begun in terms of adoption and fostering. No one’s really -- it’s not been on the forefront of people’s minds. It is on the forefront of my mind every day now when I get up. When I look around, I go, “Is he, is she, what is their situation?” And it’s because of this family, and I think what they are going to do for our country in terms of being aware of that is – I don’t think they realize the profound affect that they are going to have. So I’m happy that being me is great for me, and you see this family, they were themselves for no other benefit other than because they wanted to reach out, lend a hand, and had no idea that they would get a son in return.

Q: Ms. Bullock, what about that knockout wardrobe?

SANDRA: How about that wardrobe Leigh Anne Tuohy? Hello! Everything I wore was what Leigh Anne wears. Every design label was what Leigh Anne would wear. Every make-up was from her pallet. Her watch was her watch. Her nightgown was her nightgown. I remember saying, “John, you’ve got to email Leigh Anne and ask her what nightgown she wears.” And you see John going, “Ohhhh” because he knew what the reply was going to be. All he gets back from Leigh Anne is, “Ya’all need to get a life.” So I’ve had the blessing of having my -- not a restored faith, but I now have faith in those who say they represent a faith, whereas before I was like, “Do not give me a lecture on how to live my life when I know I’m a pretty decent human being. I might not go to church every day but I know I do the right thing or try to. You’re going to church and you’re still sleeping around on your wife and spending everyone’s money. How are you better than I am?” So I’ve finally met people that walk the walk and it’s made me happy, really happy.

Q: Sandy, are you going to go back to being blonde? How did that feel?

SANDRA: I like blonde highlights, but I needed to have the whole thing. I would have to change my whole wardrobe. There was a very important person in my life who just didn’t want me being blonde. Thank God. Thank God, there was not an appreciation. There was a little person who thought I looked like an angel, but then there was a big person that said, “I don’t like the blond on you, take it off.” And you want him to say that, and that’s what’s fun about it.

Q: What are you doing next, Sandy? Do you have anything next?

SANDRA: Really I’m not doing – I’m gonna work on my restoration buildings. I’m not doing anything.

“The Blind Side” opens in theaters on November 20th.

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