Toronto: Sandra Bullock Talks Gender Roles, Butt Doubles, and Root Grow-Out


In Our Brand Is Crisis, Sandra Bullock plays a political strategist who cares not a whit about substance and is instead an expert purveyor of flash and manipulation, so perhaps it’s appropriate — if annoying — that at the Q&A following the movie’s Toronto International Film Festival premiere last night, one of the first questions that some random dude asked Bullock had nothing to do with her performance and everything to do with her hair.

In particular, the baffled man couldn’t get over the fact that her hair had two tones, a chestnut brown and what he deemed to be “white.” He asked Bullock, “Why?” as I muttered the same thing under my breath.

“I love talking about hair,” snarked Bullock. “It’s called root grow-out? And all the women in this room know what that means.” She added, “Wasn’t white, it was more of an ashy blonde.”

Near Bullock, her producer George Clooney grinned. It’s hard to imagine Clooney would ever be asked that sort of question, though he'd originally developed the film as a star vehicle for himself. “I stepped into a role that George could have played,” Bullock said, “or maybe I could have played better.”

Clooney gamely conceded. “Sandy called and said she wanted to do the role that was originally developed for a man to do,” he said, “and once we realized that you could change it really easily, it made you realize that there are an awful lot of women’s roles that could be out there if people just started thinking in this way.”

As the audience cheered, Clooney expertly punctured their enthusiasm. “I don’t really mean that, though,” he said, his grin broad.

In the end, it was probably a smart decision to cast Bullock, who can bring major box office appeal to a project that isn’t the easiest sell to general audiences. The movie casts Bullock as “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a political mastermind who’s lured out of semi-retirement to lend help to a flailing presidential campaign in Bolivia. Her candidate is an out-of-touch establishment man (Joaquim de Almeida) who’s trailing behind a younger, of-the-people insurgent, but Jane doesn’t care who would be better for the Bolivians — she just wants to win, and in so doing, beat a rival strategist (Billy Bob Thornton) who’s working for the front-runner.

Needless to say, it’s the sort of movie that’s a far cry from most of the comedies on Bullock’s résumé, or from the big-studio product that Hollywood churns out in general. But underneath those exotic trappings is a fairly conventional picture that hits all the expected beats, one that may be too predictable for the intelligentsia but will play just fine with mainstream moviegoers who are feeling adventurous. And while Jane is more complicated than most female leads, she still gives Bullock the opportunity to hit the high comic notes the actress is known for, most especially in a bus chase sequence where Jane pulls up alongside a rival campaign bus just so she can press her ass to the glass and moon them.

So was that Bullock’s real rear? “I don’t know …” she coyly demurred at the Q&A, before Clooney stepped in. “It was my ass,” he said.

Bullock took the bait. “The reason it worked better is that George is a lot less hairy down there,” she said. “Baby bottom. Versus what I’ve got down there, which is a Chia Pet.”