Sandra Bullock: At Home With a Speed Queen

Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves's spunky impromptu bus driver in Speed, invites our reporter home for a friendly afternoon sugar high.

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"Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!" Sweetly hollering with mock psychotic glee, Sandra Bullock brings the blade of her kitchen knife down on her chocolate bunny's neck. Chunks of leftover Easter candy fly past my tape recorder and land in my lap. "In 15 minutes we're going to crash and burn from sugar highs," she says, easing out of Fudd-speak. "We'll be hating each other. But don't worry, I'll scrape you off the ceiling if you'll scrape me off the ceiling."

This positively endearing invitation to minor madness is oddly in keeping with the persona Sandra Bullock projects on the big screen. Unaffected and accessible, lovely without being a knockout, sensual without having the slightest bimbo vibe, she easily brings to mind the likable, resourceful young woman she plays who takes over the wheel of the bomb-rigged bus in Speed.

Since wrapping Speed late last year, Bullock has been laying tile, razing walls, refinishing doors, running electrical wires, and going a bit stir-crazy in her recently purchased Beachwood Canyon fixer-upper, and she has kindly agreed to take me on a tour of the results. Right now, she and I are munching our chocolate at the circular table in her homey dining room, letting the sugar rush take us from topic to topic--from love scenes ("Sylvester was gentle; Keanu was cool") to her real-life love (actor Tate Donovan, her co-star from Love Potion No. 9).

Does Tate live here too, I ask? "I'm so afraid of relationships," Bullock answers. "Besides, my sister's living here, and three's a crowd." She shifts into the put-out mode of a drama queen and sobs, "Why do you ask me this? Why do you pick such a painful topic?!" After vamping her way past the subject of romance, she changes gears completely by gesturing toward three primitive-looking paintings of frugging stick figures that dominate this white, round-walled, dome-ceilinged room. "At night, when I light candles, it looks like they're dancing," she says. She points to the last figure in the series. "And see that one? He's got a gun to his head and he's blowing his brains out."

At this point in her career, Bullock relates to the celebratory figures rather than to the one who's Kurt Cobaining himself. She's doing all right, after all. Before Speed she scored with viewers as the airhead future-cop who wanted to fuck Sly Stallone in Demolition Man. In less broadly seen fare she was chloroformed by Jeff Bridges in The Vanishing, had a small but coveted role as a waitress in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, and she truly turned the few heads that took in Peter Bogdanovich's barely released country-music ensemble film The Thing Called Love. With a fun-ride like Speed, Bullock's likely to ascend beyond her previous low-level stardom, which was basically the kind that makes you well-known to casting directors, producers and celebrity stalkers, but not hordes of moviegoers.

Unlike most busy actors who are not yet household names, Bullock insists that she is not a star. More stunningly, she adds that she doesn't necessarily expect to be one. "I've worked with people who are huge stars," she says, tossing me another hunk of chocolate. "They walk into a room and everybody is like, Oh, my God. They command a room. I don't have that kind of charisma--and I'm not sure I could handle having it. It's important to know what you possess and how to use it. I figure that God gave me a certain amount to work with, and that's what I try to do."

In the next breath, though, Bullock concedes that she noticed on a recent trip to New York that something has elevated her recognition rating. She was in a restaurant with Donovan (he's been appearing on Broadway in Picnic) when a group of little girls snapped a picture of her in mid-bite. Then, in another restaurant, a male fan slipped her a mash note. "I was very flattered because he actually knew my name before he introduced himself to me," Bullock remembers. "He said that he was very excited to meet me and that if I ever wanted to have coffee and talk with him, he would like that." Just for fun I ask her if she'd ever actually do that.

"I'm not that stupid," she says. Bullock claims that the only scary fan interaction she's experienced took place in the dressing room of a SoHo clothing store. "The saleswoman came in to hand me an outfit," she continues. "I was standing there in my underwear and she said, 'You look familiar.' I replied, 'Get out of here, and don't tell anyone that my bra and panties don't match.'"

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