Given Sandra Bullock’s impressive record at the box office, you might have thought people would be falling over themselves to write plum parts for the Oscar-winning actress. So why is Bullock playing a role originally intended for George Clooney in the new comedy-drama Our Brand is Crisis (out today), about American political consultants intervening in a Bolivian election?
“About two-and-a-half years ago, I just put out the feelers saying, ‘I’m not reading anything I’m excited about. Are there any male roles out there that they don’t mind switching to female, as long as it works?'” says the actress. “You put that out to the powers-that-be, and they went to George and said, ‘What about this? You guys have this and you’re not slated to do it.’ George was all for it. He could see how it might work, being changed to a woman. Then, we went to Peter (Straughan, who wrote the film) and Peter’s got the difficult job of having to switch an entire character. He was excited, and game for it, and then when we read it, it made me excited. You don’t get to read roles like this a lot. There’s a lot of unforgivable things that she does. Yet somehow you have to cheer for her while she’s doing these unspeakable things. So, very tricky territory, but a good way to tell the story through the voice of a woman, and I’m just glad that they did.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’ve seen the documentary which inspired this film, but very loosely I gather. Who exactly do you play in the film?
SANDRA BULLOCK: Well, I actually am an amalgamation of a few characters from the documentary. She’s an amalgamation of an essence of a few people. She’s someone who’s superb in her field. For lack of a better description, she’s basically a female Karl Rove. But she’s just brilliant at the devious side of politics, of press, of PR, of what-have-you. [She knows] how to convince the people they need something and then give it to them.
This group is hired to go down to Bolivia to win the election for this ex-president, who’d been president before, and caused some havoc, and he’s next-to-last place, basically. It’s how they go about trying to win the election for this candidate. And it’s all the things that are done in politics, and in life, and in advertising, all over the world. It shows that really dark side that makes you question what’s real. You know, what are we buying? What’s real? What are we supposed to believe? Who are we supposed to believe? And my character is the one that’s called upon to do the dirty work.
Her nickname is Calamity Jane?
Yes. Because she brings a degree of chaos [laughs] when she steps in to the world. Either that chaos is really beneficial for the group that’s she’s working for or, towards the end of her career, it became a detriment. It became like an addiction in that she just got completely caught up in this world and didn’t care [about] the consequences. Essentially, for me, this whole film is about consequences.
Billy Bob Thornton plays your rival?
That is correct. You find out in the story that he’s main reason that they’re able to pull her back in, because she has a lot of unfinished business with him. You don’t know what the rivalry’s based on, but you feel that there’s a tremendous amount of history. He comes in and, as Billy Bob Thornton does, he steals it. He’s so good at just being bad, but yet you can’t help still love him, like, a lot. Very few people can carry the weight that he does without saying anything, and that’s what just made this so juicy and fun. You don’t know whether to hate these people or love these people.
Did you speak with terrible political advisers or is talking to people like me on a regular basis research enough?
It was just press people. I’m just kidding!
You can see the trailer for Our Brand is Crisis, below.