†Sandra Bullock has taken on the roles of both actor and producer in her latest
film, the romantic comedy Miss Congeniality. Starring opposite Benjamin Bratt, Candice
Bergen and Michael Caine, Bullock portrays an FBI agent forced into entering a beauty
pageant on a mission to catch a terrorist planning to sabotage the pageant on national
Her character, Special Agent Gracie Hart, is the quintessential tomboy whose
transformation at the hands of Michael Caineís character offers a hilarious look into
the expectations of beauty pageant contestants. Bratt works as her partner on the case,
watching her change from plain to knockout and realising his feelings for her in the
process. In this interview, the delightfully down-to-earth and hysterically funny Bullock
describes what it was like to straddle Benjamin Bratt, how she feels about real-life
beauty contestants, and why sheís so good at physical comedy.
How do you feel about beauty pageants? Have you ever been in one?
It is a very Americana thing. I never felt pressure to enter one, but there is always a
little hierarchy that goes along with those events. Like Homecoming, there is the Queen
and the chosen few in the Homecoming court, and I am sure I felt the pressures at one
point. I actually entered a beauty pageant in North Carolina once to earn some extra money
for school. All the gay people in the dance department decided they could dress me. It was
like Michael Caineís character - they could teach me how to walk and we had these
beautiful Bob Mackey gowns that they used to do their drag shows in. I didnít win but
I made a little money so it was okay!
You character changes her mind about pageants after the mission. Did you feel the same?
I think her opinion changed about women, not so much about the pageant itself. I think she
had a preconceived idea of what those types of women are which, I think, we all do. We
cast a lot of women who had been in previous pageants and so many of the girls were
absolutely wonderful; they were feisty and smart and funny. Some of them were even
lawyers, so I think that we generalize these women because we see it as superficial to
enter these pageants and donít see them as something deeper. There were lots of
beautiful women there and it was hard to be on stage when there are fifty women who are
looking beautiful and you are not looking as good. I know the men enjoyed it. Ben (Bratt)
was very happy because all the women were in love with him. Not because he is handsome and
nice but he is so charming. He would walk onto the set and you could see everyone watching
him. But I donít have an opinion on pageants one way or the other except that I do
think itís a great venue for a talented woman. If she has something she wants to
achieve in life and this is how she can get it, then great. Go for it.
Back to Benjamin Bratt. He said you were a mean boss.
Well, I required that he showed up on time (laughing). He didnít really say that did
Good, because we made sure he had a good social life. I literally carved time out of our
schedule and made sure that Benjamin had chunks of time where he could go home for
extended weekends since he and his other half, Julia Roberts, were working on different
things in different places. I think that time is really important. It was the same
scheduling for Candice, making sure she had time to go home. Michael Caineís wife was
able to come to the set and William Shatnerís partner was also able to come so I
tried to be conscious about all of their needs too.
Maybe it was because you beat him up in the movie?
Yeah, I knocked him around. That was our first day. I hurt him. Did he tell you that? He
had a back problem which he didnít tell us about for weeks because he must have been
embarrassed. I did it, apparently and I donít know what I did, but he really got
Maybe it was during the time his head was stuck between your legs?
We were rehearsing and were glad that we liked each other at that point. I would have to
sort of straddle his face in this wrestling scene and heíd laugh and ĎIím
so glad itís you!í Itís like, if you have to straddle someoneís face,
you want it to be someone you like - thatís how I feel too!
Your character in the movie goes from tomboy to cover girl. How do you feel about
making the transformation and which are you more comfortable as?
Well, that is the great thing about having a full staff of hair, makeup and wardrobe. I
love both sides of myself so it just depends on the occasion. Even though I love being a
tomboy doesnít mean that I lose the feminine side. I would love to show up in jeans
and a t-shirt for a cover shoot but that doesnít sell apparently. So itís fun to
just play dress-up -and air brushing is the greatest thing ever. We had a scene where I
had a huge pimple and I was worried that it would show but they took care of it right
away. I guess that was the girl side of me - the tomboy side would have let it go!
Wouldnít you love for men to like you looking natural?
Actually the men in my life like women without make-up. I think that most men prefer that.
I mean we all gravitate towards attractive things. And it is nice every now and then to
dress up and see how great you look, but it is also nice to roll out of bed in the morning
and have someone think you still look beautiful. I think men donít really care about
clothes. Letís face it Ė theyíd rather see us naked. We really dress up for
the other women because weíre always checking each other out!
This movie really showcases your talent for physical comedy along the lines of Lucille
Ball. What do you think of that comparison?
Yeah, I love being physical to get a laugh. Iíve read where Iíve been compared
to her, but no one can be Lucille Ball. She was just so great with her expressions and
timing. But I have always been really physical. My father has pretty great comedic timing
- actually his whole side of the family, so maybe itís genetic. And I used to do
gymnastics so physical comedy is like gymnastics. I love it. Itís fun. Not every joke
is going to be funny, but if you can fall over something well, that insures a laugh. And
Iíve had plenty of practice falling over in high heels so that was easy!
Published March 15, 2001