Ten tips from Sandra on surviving the countdown to fame

By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
May 05, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

1 LEARN TO LIKE THE TRANSIT SYSTEM

Sandra Bullock gets attention in the oddest places. There she was in the winter of 1993, sitting behind the wheel of an L.A. County bus, day in, day out, looking at the same scenery and living in the same costume — one baggy rayon dress she’d picked out but grew to hate in the first week. On a bad day, she worried that she was suffering from carbon-monoxide poisoning, and that the kink in her neck — which she’d gotten by constantly turning around to talk to the people sitting behind her — was the first stage of cancer. On a good day, she managed to fixate on these things and still swerve, scream, and smile — that loopy, only-Julia-Roberts-does-it-wider grin — in all the right places.

There must have been a lot of good days, because when Speed, which, not incidentally, costarred Keanu Reeves, was released last June, Sandra Bullock became famous faster than she ever drove that careening bus. ”I was out of the country” when Speed opened, Bullock, 28, says 10 months later, nestled in a couch at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, with a pillow between her knees and another curled under her arm like a teddy bear. ”So I wasn’t part of the animal I created. When I came back, it was like there was a whole other me. It was very interesting.”

Since the release of While You Were Sleeping, the new fairy-tale romantic comedy in which she stars, things have become even more interesting for Bullock. She plays Lucy Moderatz, a dreamy subway-token clerk who’s alone in the world until she rescues and falls for a man (Peter Gallagher) who falls onto the train tracks. Along the way, she also falls for the brother of Coma Guy (the film’s original title), played by Bill Pullman, winning his heart without once putting on lipstick or combing her flop-topped hair. But if she lacks on-screen glamour, the audience doesn’t mind a bit: The film premiered at No. 1 last weekend, with a $9.3 million box office gross, proving Bullock can carry a romantic comedy and open it as well.

That Demi Moore was originally in line to play Bullock’s part would be heady for any young actress. But Bullock, who is dressed in a cute-as-a-button pink matching sweater set and is still wearing her napped-in Live With Regis & Kathie Lee makeup, insists Moore doesn’t need to watch her back: ”There’s this one list, and then there’s another list, and I’m somewhere in the middle of the second list, and she’s on the other list, so we’re not on the same list.” (Not to mention that Moore would have earned 10 times Bullock’s $1.2 million salary.) She pauses to catch her breath. ”I just want to thank her, thank her for being busy and letting me have this,” she says seriously. But then that slow-spreading, ear-to-ear grin appears: ”I’m so grateful, I gave her half my check. She bought a new dress.”

In fact, in the good old, just-wrapped-but-not-released Speed days, Bullock, then known best as Sylvester Stallone’s wisecracking partner in Demolition Man, may have been pretty far down on that second list for Sleeping. ”I was the last person to audition,” she admits, wearing all the confidence of someone who knows she’s not about to be back there anytime soon. ”And when I walked into the room to audition, all of a sudden I’m back on Off Broadway. Everybody’s sitting there. I’ve got [producer and Disney chairman] Joe Roth right next to my ear, and I’m talking to this dead guy in a coma, who’s some reader they’ve brought in. But I loved this film so much, I wasn’t nervous.”

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