I don’t have any interest in going to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (or Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close, as I keep mistakenly calling it). It’s not that I don’t like Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks – I like them both a lot, and I wish they had worked together on a “lighter” project, because then the film would be must-see. I just think that the subject matter – 9/11 drama – is still too much for fictional feature films. Give me a documentary about 9/11, sure, I’m there. Around the tenth anniversary, I watched a ton of documentaries, and they all made me cry, from the one about the construction of the memorial, to that epic Showtime 10-part series, to the one about the two French brothers who were making a documentary about a newbie fireman on what happened to be 9/11. Sobbing, weeping, sobering, mesmerizing. But I think the feelings are still too raw, and people don’t want to see the events of the day fictionalized, sensationalized, packaged in a neat, overwrought drama with a bow.
Anyway, Sandra Bullock hasn’t been all over the place promoting the film, and Tom Hanks has barely been anywhere. I don’t think Bullock even did any magazine interviews, did she? But she’s got a new interview with the AP, and… it got to me. The quote everyone is talking about is the “permanently broken” statement, but what got me was Sandra talking about a scene in which Tom Hanks’s character calls her from one of the towers. GAH. I just teared up.
Sandra Bullock wasn’t looking to return to acting when Stephen Daldry called about “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” Bullock’s last film, 2009′s “The Blind Side,” was the kind of career apogee of which most actresses dream, winning her a best actress Academy Award in what essentially amounted to a coronation of Bullock as America’s most beloved female movie star.[From The Associated Press via HuffPo]
But the accomplishment – which would normally be followed by a wave of projects to capitalize on the momentum – was soon marred by public scandal. Bullock’s husband, “Monster Garage” host Jesse James, was revealed to have been unfaithful. The fallout, which led to divorce, was covered relentlessly by the tabloids. Bullock still went ahead and adopted a baby boy.
When Daldry, the director of “The Hours” and “The Reader,” approached her about “Extremely Loud,” Bullock wasn’t sure she would return to acting at all.
“I was perfectly content to be permanently broken,” she says. Recognizing how that might sound in print, she smiles at the unintended hint of her personal turmoil, and adds “time-wise” to clarify the break as one from moviemaking.
“I honestly didn’t think I was in a place where I wanted to work or wanted to step out of where I was,” she says. “I wasn’t prepared. But the opportunity was louder than my head.”
The chance was to play a supporting but key role in Daldry’s adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel. In it, Bullock plays the mother of an uncommonly bright, precocious child (Thomas Horn), whose father (Tom Hanks) dies on Sept. 11. It’s a particularly wrenching story about grief and reconciliation.
“What a great way to get back on the horse,” says Bullock, who was staying at a hotel 20 blocks from the World Trade Center on 9/11. “It was hard, but it was what it’s supposed to be.”
It took some courting. Daldry visited Bullock at her house, and when he asked her what she might bring to the role, the actress was frank.
“I said, `I haven’t the slightest idea,’” she says. “I was like, `The well is deep. It’s your job to stop it or get it.’”
Bullock and Daldry have a charming, easy manner with each other, showering one another with compliments. Asked why he pursued her for the part, the British director quips, “She’s cheap as chips.”
“I have watched just about everything you’ve ever made,” says Daldry. Bullock, whose self-deprecating humor is undimmed, doesn’t miss a beat: “I’m so sorry.”
“I needed a partner in the project, somebody that would be a leading lady and look after me, look after herself, look after the character, look after the kid and look after the creation of the whole process,” says Daldry. “Sandy was literally like a partner on it for me. We would write and rewrite and focus down.”
One of the film’s most striking and emotional scenes is a flashback to Bullock’s character speaking on the phone with her husband, who is calling from atop one of the burning towers.
“The thing that made it so poignant for me was that Tom Hanks showed up that day,” says Bullock. “He sat in a room not far from where I was and made that call every single time. Every time I pick up that phone, it was Tom Hanks on the other end of the line. My husband who is calling because he knows he’s going to die, giving me some gift, some joy, some jewel – something that he can leave me with so he knows I’m going to be OK.”
If Bullock, 47, was hesitant to return to acting, she’s now appears fully back. She recently finished shooting another highly anticipated movie: Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity,” a space thriller co-starring George Clooney.
Is it possible to feel a wave of sympathy for a rich, privileged actress that I‘ve never met? Because Sandra just got another sympathy wave from me. I think she’s still raw too – she got burned so badly with Jesse James, and I think that she simply picked up her son from the ashes and that’s all she thinks she deserves at this point, you know? Like, it feels like she’s given up on men, on relationships, on anything to do with that part of life. Poor Sandy.