Sandra Bullock’s Premonition


In Columbia Pictures’ Premonition, Linda (Sandra Bullock) thinks she has it all. She has the fairytale life of a beautiful home, two great kids, and her husband Jim (Julian McMahon) couldn’t be more devoted. Her perfect life ends, however, with the shocking news that her husband has been killed in a car accident. The next morning, Jim is actually alive. Linda, believing it to be no more than a strangely lucid nightmare, goes on with her seemingly ideal life until she reluctantly understands it’s not a dream as bizarre incidents make her see her world wasn’t so perfect after all. She soon realizes she’s up for the fight of her life if she wants to save her family. talked to Sandra Bullock about what it was like to star in the new thriller. How crazy is it to get your emotions in check for this movie? We understand you shot in sequence instead of different days.
Sandra Bullock: That’s funny that you said that, because that so isn’t true. You always shoot out of order in a film anyway and your days are out of order and I had a really hard time. And I take great pleasure in saying I thought I was going to loose it. And I went to the director and said, “I’m having a hard time. I don’t know what to do.” And the smile on his face when he heard that, “No, that’s exactly where you need to be.” And I was like, “No, it’s not.” But, I loved working with this director and understood completely the method to his madness that in my unraveling, in this little bubble that we had for three months, I felt like, “OK, I’m gonna be fine.” It’s just a hard thing to put yourself in a state of grief like that for three months and not think you’re gonna cough up some of your own stuff. It’s not healthy, but it was exciting to think, I hope at the end, that he got what he needed. We played the levels right. It was getting the levels right. Is she just pure grief here? When does the grief go into denial and anger? When does she get mad at the affair? It would be nice if it all had been linear. It would have made more sense. I don’t think there is a way to shoot this film in a linear fashion.

CS: How helpful was it that you both spoke German?
Bullock: Not bad. I mean, it was fun. But I think because I understood his nature. I got [the director’s] work ethic. Once I realized the way we were going to work, and it dawned on me one day in the middle of a shot, and I went, “This is what I need to be prepared for.” Once I knew what to be prepared for, which was [that] at any moment he’s going to flip it and put it on its ear and do something else which added in making me feel like I was going to go crazy. Not only as a perfectionist, but emotionally I was getting so angry. Once I knew what that language was and understood it, I felt very comfortable. I understood his work ethic. I got it. I got that drive. And the visual between he and Torsten, who was his D.P. They worked like, their teamwork as, I don’t even know the word – visualists – the painters that they became in tandem was pretty spectacular. If you watched them on set, we never really left the set. He said, “I’d like you be on set all the time.” I tried to make that happen as much as possible.

CS: Do you believe in any sort of supernatural occurrences?
Bullock: I don’t think we are the only planet that has life. I do think there is something to human nature, if you want to call it intuitiveness, gut instinct. People who know things that have happened. It’s happened to a lot of people. But I always put it back into this, they call it, how you just put it, it’s almost like it becomes a scientific thing. No one has proof that I know of, that a higher power exists, yet a major portion of the world believes in it and relies on it in faith in trust, in what that is. Where is the science in that? And yet you have incredible belief in that. So, when someone says to me, “I’ve had a bad feeling that something is going to happen and then it did.” I don’t know how to explain it. It can’t be explained by science, but I believe in that happening. I think there is something bigger than we understand, but I don’t think it’s supported and nurtured in people. I think people think you are crazy and unless it can be proved by science, it’s not valid. But I do believe. Twins have it. Twins know what’s happened to each other.

CS: When we talked about “The Lake House” you said you were concerned about explanations of mailboxes and went over different possibilities. How about this script? Was it the same process?
Bullock: No, because so much of what is woven in the story is in the visual and was the director’s job. My job was to have the right emotion and what would she do in this situation? It was all about me. And I don’t mean that…but it was all about: what is Linda going through at this point? What would she do with her kids? What wouldn’t she say? Why doesn’t she say anything to him? Because he’s going to think she’s crazier. They are already distant when the film starts. There is already trouble there. If I bring up these visions is he going to leave me? Is this something, there has been a lot going on before the film started. So, we did a lot of that kind of talking. Why would she choose not to or why would she? And we said a lot of this happened in the years preceding this very moment. And that was nice in working with Julian and Mennan [Yapo] is that we came up with our own story in what put us in this place. So, you feel it when you see it, but you don’t know it until the pieces get together and you go, “Omigod, she’s…” And again, at the end, to have that feeling of what I would have done? Would I have gone back and changed? Or would I have let him die? What would you have done? Y’know, you hold on to the resentment, do you try and make a new life? Do you try and make a life better than how your life ended up or is there something worth salvaging? I concentrate on her and not the other stuff. I didn’t have the where with all to deal with that, but I knew Mennan and Tostin knew exactly what they were doing visually in the storytelling.

CS: What about the challenge of doing a movie in which everything that happens is filtered through her point-of-view?
Bullock: On one hand, I got excited because I said as an audience member I wanted to be the eyes for the people watching the film. If I was in the audience watching this, I would want to feel as frustrated. I want to feel like I am going crazy. I understand why she’s acting the way that she is. Why isn’t anyone listening? What would I do? I thought it was a really interesting take on it putting her complex situation into the driver’s seat for the audience. I love that take. And that again, goes to the writer who imagined this, who imagined this story from beginning to end. Go into his head. What made him this write this? But, I thought it was a really great point-of-view to take.

CS: So was it as easy…
Bullock: No, I was miserable. I had such a hard time. I really had a hard time with it. But, I think anyone who would have done that and you stay at that level for three months, you’re bound to bring it home in a way and go, “I don’t know how to get out of this.” And on top of it, wanting to be a good actor, wanting to give the director what he needs. “This doesn’t make sense. I don’t know if I did this right. What level do you need?” And I’m sure I drummed up some of my own stress and drama, but in the end I was glad it was with Mennan at the helm of it, because there wasn’t one moment where I felt I was going to fall of a cliff. I felt like this man was in control of the ship and I felt very good about that.

CS: Have you ever been through that on a film before?
Bullock: On different levels, yeah. I will make myself sick on films, just because you want everything to be right. I can’t sleep if something hasn’t been done or is out of place. And if I am producing it as well, it gets even worse. And that’s why I know myself well enough to take time in between before, I say before I produce and am in something again? It’s got to be a long time. It just takes a lot out of me. But, why do it unless you are going to do it like that? I have had different hard times, but never anything like this. Because this was, you put yourself in a state where your love has died and your life is out of order and you don’t know what happened. In that kind of grieving I think anyone would just sort of want to go to therapy, but that basically was therapy.

CS: How has being married recently helped in playing a role like this?
Bullock: Well, I’ve played a lot of wives and moms before this. Y’know, every relationship is different. There are good marriages, bad marriages, connected partners, unconnected partners. Being married hasn’t changed how I would have approached it, but thinking for three months not being married, what if my husband was killed it put me in a bad place. It put me in a really bad place. Sometimes, all couples will tell you, “I wanna kill ya. I wanna kill ya.” But, I’d never want that to actually happen, because in five minutes I’m going to love you a lot. But, it put me in a place, but not because I was married, but because it was the subject matter of the film. And how I was trained, I can’t pretend like something, if I don’t feel it. I can’t act it. Same in comedy. My character, Sandy has to feel it. It’s not the way Sandy would do it. It’s not Sandy’s situation, but I’ve got to find my as if to get me to that place and that’s all I know. I can’t lie on the floor and fry like bacon Stanislavski style. I’ll never be cast as a bacon piece. I can’t imagine what that would be. I know! “I see you more as an egg girl.” (Laughs.) But that was just how I was trained and what I know and that’s what I relied on.

CS: What message do you think the movie is trying to give?
Bullock: [Director Mennan] said, “It’s like the American dream becomes the American nightmare.” I personally came out of it, my favorite line is the priest’s line, “It’s never too late to fight for what you want.” And that is what you want in your happiness is not going to be what the American dream is. The American dream, I’m sure, wants you to follow that path because it’s easy to control. But, I’m a firm believer that we all deserve happiness in our way. It’s not going to be like the neighbors’ way. And have you done everything in this lifetime to make this lifetime your own. Complacency. What a miserable place to be. She was a prisoner of that house and that routine and that run everyday was the same as her laundry. Everything was exactly the same. The love lost, the touching him, he turns away, you can’t speak anymore. You don’t know how to get back to each other. That happens to so many people. What happened to the fun or the laughter or the connection? Why do we get to that place? Why is work or business or success or having that house or that lifestyle so important that we will allow it to make us dead? That is what I took. A lot of people have come out taking so many other things, but you don’t want to die going, “I wish I’d lived the life I wanted to live.” Or said what I wanted to say. Or said, “You know what? I’m pissed off at you. F**k you! How dare you do this?” Start a dialogue and get it off your chest. To connect, to feel something, to go through life unfeeling is, that’s not a life.

CS: It was important you cast the right guy as your husband. What did Julian bring to the film?
Bullock: Acting chops. Acting chops. Acting chops. And an understanding of what it is to be a father. An understanding of what it is like to be a man and be in the position where you have to be the provider. You have to do x, y and z in order to be a man which is completely false, but is that preconceived notion. The fact that the days become mundane. That tweed jacket is a car shop. It’s a place where it is just the same thing everyday. He was thinking, “They could have been Prom King and Queen. They were the sparkle in everyone’s eye. And here they are, what they are, which is nothing.” He understood that. He was so thorough in how he approached everything. Every possible. We would sit there and I go, and in the love scene, the love scene that we did is not the love scene that was written. Y’know? And we got to that night and we went, “Something is not right.” That happens a lot on a film where you have shot so much and you get to this place and you go, “So much has changed.”And so in a way all three of us just locked ourselves in a room and talked about it and what is it that we want to say in a visual way and emotionally? The way he approaches his work is so thorough. He is a workhorse. He takes his work very seriously. I felt very comfortable with him. I knew he was in it for the same reasons I was and there was going to be nothing for those three months that was going to get in the way of that. So, I admire him a great deal for the man he is and the actor he is and the dedication. And he’s really tall and he made me look tiny. (Laughs.) I love that.

CS: Do you have any sense of premonition? Have you ever had one?
Bullock: I have pretty good gut instincts. My mother had extraordinary intuition. Extraordinary. I think everyone has it. I don’t think we are raised to embrace it. I really don’t. I have had things tell me not to do something and then I’ve done it and paid for it and listened. I’ve had dreams going, “What does that mean?” And then the dream, what the essence of what it was happened. And I think that happens to everyone. Is that intuition, is that premonition, is that coincidence? I don’t know. But I do know that there are times that I’ve asked for something and I’ve seen it and I look up and go, “That’s awesome.” To me that is beyond my control so I appreciate any help I can get whether it’s the voices in my head or it’s a neighbor, I appreciate it.

CS: I think one thing you get out of this film is that if something is fated to happen, there may be nothing you can do to change it. Do you have a sense of that?
Bullock: I don’t know about the word, I think the word is just a hard word to say, “Do you believe in fate?” And then you can argue it and discount it, but I said earlier I can look at my life and look at all the things that have happened and go, “Ah, I now see why A, B and C happened and I understand why I had to go through that, because here I sit.” But I do believe that rebirth and when have things have finished their time. I mean for me to get through life and go, “What’s the purpose?” I go, when someone passes away I hope there is a really good reason for it, because it’s there to give birth to something else. Because of this event hasn’t happened and gone away, this couldn’t have begun. And that is what I loved about this film is that it was bittersweet, that if one thing didn’t happen the next thing that was supposed to begin in this world couldn’t have arrived. Call it fate, call it whatever it is. But I do think we have a good amount of control of what our life can be. It’s up to us to make our life happy and joyful and what it is supposed to be for us. Y’know, so I think there is a level of control in that fated end, whatever you want it to be. I can only come from my point-of-view and that was it and that will probably change tomorrow based on what I learn today.

Premonition opens March 16th.