In a new interview, the actress has revealed how beginning again in her forties changed the trajectory of her life.
In March 2010, Sandra Bullock was flying high.
The actress had just won her first Oscar, courtesy of a tour de force performance in The Blind Side as a woman who fosters a homeless black teenager and helps him become an integral part of the school’s football team.
But mere days after Bullock walked the red carpet at the Oscars with her then-husband of five years Jesse James, an American magazine published an interview with a woman claiming to have carried out an affair with James while Bullock was away from their home filming The Blind Side in Atlanta. Bullock pulled out of the London premiere of The Blind Side and by June, 2010, James and Bullock were divorced.
Later, James told The Daily Beast that he was “remorseful that I hurt her so bad.” “I think it [the cheating] was several factors: ego, loneliness, distrust, which probably led to resentment.”
When Bullock and James divorced, she was 46. “My life took a trajectory that wasn’t very pleasant,” the actress told The Independent in a new interview today. “But I feel like it had to happen in order for me to fully understand what family was about.”
“My life went the way it went because it was supposed to be that way,” she added. “Sometimes you have to open up your mind and wait. I can say that, because I see the bigger picture, but when you’re in it, you’re like: ‘When is my family coming?’ I was there. I know what that feels like. And at some point you almost let go of the idea and when you do, all of a sudden the universe goes: ‘Oh you finally let go? Here you go. This is it.’ And you go: ‘Oh my God, that’s more beautiful than anything I ever imagined.’”
Before their separation, Bullock and James were investigating adopting children. Bullock continued with the process on her own, announcing her adoption of a baby boy called Louis in May 2010 and in 2013, daughter Laila.
Being a single mother, Bullock told The Independent, was difficult. “Society still, as open-minded as we’ve become, has these rules that quietly say: ‘This is the way it goes’. They’re saying: ‘It’s a man and a woman, and then you have a baby, and that’s the family.’ I go: ‘Oh my god, I’m in a single parent. With a child. How am I…’ I felt less than. I felt: ‘I’m not the complete package.’ And then I realized… This is the complete package.’”
“It breaks my heart when I see people saying: ‘I can’t have that’. Why not? Why can’t you have it?”
It’s partly why the 54-year-old actress felt so strongly about taking on her latest role, as Malorie in The Night Manager director Susanne Bier’s new Netflix thriller Bird Box. With echoes of A Quiet Place, Bird Box tells the story a pregnant woman – Malorie – who has to be blindfolded in order to venture out in her post-apocalyptic society where having your eyes open causes whatever truly scares you to appear before you, like some kind of terrifying Boggart. Only in Bird Box there’s no ‘Ridikkulus’ charm to help dispense with your greatest fears.
Bullock’s eight-year-old son Louis visited his mother on the set of the film, curious about what every member of the cast’s greatest fear was. “He was very intent on knowing,” Bullock said. “He knew what mine was. Mine is something happening to my kids. I live in such a fearful place. I’m so afraid all the time. I think becoming a mother has made me that much more fearful.”
Bullock’s comments about divorce mirror the ones made by Nigella Lawson in food magazine The Nobel Rot in November about starting over at a time when “you’re meant to be paying it all off.”
“I had to start my life again at 53, get a mortgage at an age when you’re meant to be paying it all off,” she explained. Lawson divorced her second husband Charles Saatchi in 2013. “I do have to work. But I only do a TV programme every other year. It’s not like I’m there all the time.”