'Loud' role lured new mom Bullock back to work

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  Feb. 24, 2012 at 10:44 PM
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NEW YORK, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Hollywood actress Sandra Bullock says she wasn't eager to go back to work after she adopted her newborn son, won her first Oscar, and then watched her marriage to reality TV star Jesse James collapse in 2010.

Asked if she considered giving up acting and moving behind the camera to focus on producing and/or directing, Bullock told reporters at a recent press conference in New York, "I wasn't thinking about any of that.

"I was just so happy being a mom," she said. "I'm still very happy being a mom. That just shifted and became my full priority. I was so good there and still am good there. And whatever the next opportunity I was given had to be an amazing opportunity for myself and for my son."

She said the role director Stephen Daldry offered her in his big-screen adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," was too tempting to pass up.

In the film, the 47-year-old Virginia native plays a widow and single mom trying to raise her young son [played by newcomer Thomas Horn] after her husband [played by Tom Hanks] is killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York. The boy believes his father left behind a clue for him and sets off to various points all over the Big Apple in an effort to solve the mystery.

The movie co-stars Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright and Max Von Sydow, who earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in the film, which is also up for Best Picture at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony.

"We had a great time. It was no longer a selfish actress having a moment," Bullock said of how she picked her first project after becoming a mom, winning an Academy Award for "The Blind Side" and divorcing her husband. "I wanted to have an amazing time with my son [Louis] and, fortunately, Mr. Daldry presented that. In every possible way, it was the best."

The star of "Speed," "Miss Congeniality," "Hope Floats," "Two Weeks Notice," "Crash" and "Infamous" said "Extremely Loud" was a project close to her heart since she was in Manhattan the day the World Trade Center's twin towers collapsed after terrorists flew two commercial planes into them, killing more than 2,600 people.

"There will never be closure, I think, for me and for so many people," Bullock emphasized. "I was there. I saw it. I saw the second plane. I saw people helping people and that, to me, is what resonates about the city of New York. I saw, within a second, the entire city come together and help each other in a way that they hadn't the day before. Hadn't thought about it, but they didn't question it when it happened. I have so many memories and emotions of it. Some still don't quite register because your mind doesn't let you register why someone would do that. In a good way, I hope it doesn't ever leave -- that vibrancy of what happened -- doesn't ever leave me because it made me aware of so many things I wasn't aware of before. So, no closure, but in a good way, as long as everyone can talk about it and grieve. I think that's what this story is."

Bullock, who is also a producer, was the first star to shoot a major feature film -- "Two Weeks Notice" with Hugh Grant -- in New York after Sept. 11, 2001.

"It was brilliant. I'm so glad we did," she recalled. "Returning [to New York City for 'Extremely Loud'] was a no-brainer, in the sense that I'd always wanted to work with Stephen, especially after I saw 'The Reader.' I was completely blown away. I didn't necessarily want to work at the time I was approached. But Stephen came to my home and wouldn't leave, and we talked about the character and what we thought she was and wasn't.

"In the book, I loved how she was basically regarded just as Mother and not given a life. I loved that because it's from the boy's point of view and so often we children don't appreciate our parents the way we should," she observed. "The way the story was told, through the eyes of Oskar, allowed me and so many people to grieve the event. I don't think as adults we allow people to grieve. People need to talk about it. They should be allowed to talk about it. Thomas has this great scene where he just talks and talks about these events and Mr. Von Sydow listens."

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is in theaters now and is due out on DVD and Blu-ray March 27.

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