‘I feel more comfortable taking pay on the back end’

Sandra Bullock’s Oscar triumph is the ultimate vindication of a mantra that the actress has lived her life by throughout her career: “Expect as good as you give.”

Sandra Bullock: No longer a control freak.

Crowned best actress on Sunday for her performance in The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock has kept the motivational maxim “Expect as good as you give” by her bedside for years, a reminder to keep pushing herself to bigger and better things.

“I used to be a control freak where every minute of my life was planned out and nothing ever went according to plan,” the 45-year-old revealed.

“So the day came that I sort of said, ‘If I get up and I’m breathing and I’m happy then I know it’s going to be a good day.’ And also for many years I had a little note beside my bed which said ‘Expect as good as you give.’

That attitude has paid off for Bullock over the past 12 months, where her performances helped two films – drama The Blind Side and romantic comedy The Proposal – earn a combined gross of more than US$700 million.

Her performance in The Blind Side, where she plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a feisty southern matriarch who mentors a troubled teenager and sets him on the road to an American football career, has helped rewrite Hollywood law.

The film is the first movie carried by a female lead to do big business at the box office, becoming the first to break the $200-million barrier.

Bullock, whose performance also earned her honours at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, only took the role after it was rejected by Julia Roberts, according to reports.

Bullock has also revealed she was dubious about taking the part, questioning whether she would do justice to the part of Tuohy.

“Initially, when I was approached with the film, it was a beautifully written story,” Bullock said. “You can see it played out. But I didn’t know how to play 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, but I still didn’t know how to play her.

“I don’t know at what point I said yes.”

Bullock was born on July 26, 1964. Her mother, Helga, was an opera singer from Germany and her father was a voice coach from Alabama.

Bullock paid an emotional tribute on Sunday to her mother, who died of cancer in 2000, for pushing her in her acting career.

“I would like to thank what this film was about for me, which are the moms that take care of the babies and the children no matter where they come from,” Bullock said as she stepped up to receive her Oscar.

“Those moms and parents never get thanked. I, in particular, failed to thank one,” Bullock said, as her voice broke with emotion.

“So if I can take this moment to thank Helga B. for not letting me ride in cars with boys until I was 18. For making me practice every day when I got home, piano, ballet.”

Her family travelled throughout Europe during her childhood before settling in Arlington, Virginia where she attended school before heading to East Carolina University. She quit before graduation in 1986 to pursue an acting career.

She spent several years struggling to get a big break before landing parts in several significant films in 1993, including the action film Demolition Man opposite Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes, and The Vanishing starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland.

However, it was not until the 1994 action blockbuster Speed where she was the love interest for Keanu Reeves that Bullock was catapulted into the big-time.

The success of Speed opened the door to other lucrative roles over the next decade, allowing Bullock to command seven-figure pay cheques for performances in sequels to Speed and Miss Congeniality.

Bullock also demonstrated her quality as a serious dramatic actress in 2005’s surprise best picture Oscar winner Crash, Paul Haggis’s ensemble piece about racial tensions in Los Angeles.

Despite being one of Hollywood’s best-paid actresses, Bullock says she does not let money govern her artistic choices.

“Everyone says ‘I don’t care about money’ but look: I’ve been blessed with crazy money but a lot of times it was attached to films that weren’t great,” Bullock said.

“So I decided to stop several years ago and start from scratch at starting scale pay. I feel more comfortable taking pay on the back end. If the film is successful it will work out, but you don’t have to pay me up front.”

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