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Bullock was born July 26, 1964 in Arlington, VA. As the daughter of a German opera singer mother and a voice coach father, Bullock was raised around show business, often joining her mother on concert tours of Europe from the time she was very young. She spent most of her pre-teen years in Nuremburg, Germany, where she sang with a children’s choir. By the time the family settled outside Washington, D.C., the teenage Bullock – with her outgoing, vibrant, personality – leaned more towards acting. She studied at East Carolina University’s drama department in Greenville before moving to New York City to study with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in 1986. A well-reviewed off-Broadway performance in 1988 helped Bullock secure an agent and begin her screen career in supporting parts for TV movies like "Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman" (NBC, 1989) and "The Preppie Murder" (ABC, 1989). After snagging her first lead role in the small indie "Who Shot Patakango?" (1989), Bullock’s career began to excel and she moved to Los Angeles.
Ironically, Bullock’s first major acting gig in Los Angeles was a starring role as ambitious young executive Tess McGill in the New York-set sitcom, "Working Girl" (NBC, 1990), based on the popular film starring Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford. She co-starred opposite Tate Donovan in the romantic comedy "Love Potion No. 9" (1992) and delivered a superb performance as a cynical feminist artist in the indie film "When the Party's Over" (1992) before getting her first major exposure with "Demolition Man” (1993). Bullock turned heads with her supporting role as a feisty LAPD lieutenant and partner of Sylvester Stallone in the dystopian actioner before turning around to give a lesser-seen but thoroughly charming supporting performance as a quirky Southern belle trying to make it in Nashville in Peter Bogdanovich's "The Thing Called Love" (1993).
But Bullock’s first taste of movie stardom came with the blockbuster "Speed" (1994), in which she played Annie, the reluctant but plucky driver of a runaway bus opposite Keanu Reeves. Her innate wit, intelligence and general likeability helped elevate what could have been just a standard testosterone-fueled action picture, allowing her to drive off with the film's best notices. Her palpable on-screen chemistry with the handsome but stoic leading man also served her well, as both she and Reeves became a kind of a screen couple ideal in filmgoers’ minds – much like Julia Roberts and Richard Gere had four years before with “Pretty Woman” (1990). And like that coupling, it would take years for Reeves and Bullock to reunite on-screen, but fans would never forget their magnetism together.
In a part originally intended for the overpriced Demi Moore, Bullock headlined the romantic comedy "While You Were Sleeping" (1995), earning a Golden Globe nomination for portraying another “regular gal with big dreams” in the surprise hit co-starring Bill Pullman and Peter Gallagher as the other points of a love triangle. Now a full-fledged movie star with a run of hits, she was equally adept as a hapless computer operator stumbling onto a major conspiracy in the thriller "The Net" (1995). Bullock rebounded from the pallid caper comedy "Two If By Sea" (1996) with a dramatic supporting turn as a law student who finds herself attracted to a married Southern lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) she is assisting in Joel Schumacher's "A Time to Kill" (1996), based on the John Grisham bestseller. While she and McConaughey became fast and lasting friends, both denied endless speculation of a romantic relationship. Canoodling tabloid photos surfacing at the time seemed to indicate the opposite, but there was no doubt the two were together on and off for years.
Unfortunately, Richard Attenborough's "In Love and War" (1996), based on the real-life romance between author Ernest Hemingway (Chris O'Donnell) and the nurse he fictionalized in A Farewell to Arms proved a disappointment, with the actress miscast as the slightly older woman. Equally disappointing was the inevitable – and ultimately misguided – sequel, "Speed 2: Cruise Control" (1997), which teamed Bullock with Jason Patric on a luxury liner taken over by a madman. The absence of Reeves only served to sink the bloated project even further. Despite the high-profile disaster, Bullock was hardly blamed, as she continued to earn a reputation as a fun-loving type who did not suffer fools gladly. Her mixture of brazenness and caginess only served to warm the hearts of audiences who seemed to forgive her anything. She further entrenched herself in Hollywood – by way of her adopted home of Austin, TX – by writing, producing, directing and co-starring opposite co-producer McConaughey in "Making Sandwiches" (1997), a 40-minute short screened at the Sundance Film Festival. As executive producer of the romantic drama "Hope Floats" (1998), she proved she had an eye for the type of Everywoman roles that had earned her kudos in the past, but with an eye toward deepening her appeal with more risky roles for the future. On the power of her name alone, the forgettable drama generated respectable box office receipts.
Later that year, Bullock lent her voice to the character of Miriam in DreamWorks animated biblical tale "The Prince of Egypt" and co-starred with Nicole Kidman as sisters who use witchcraft to solve their romantic problems in "Practical Magic," which she also co-executive produced. Bullock teamed with Ben Affleck in the successful romantic road comedy "Forces of Nature" (1999), but her producing efforts misfired with "Gun Shy" (2000). Neither she nor her co-star Liam Neeson could save the awkward and unfunny crime comedy. She returned to form later that year as a New York writer and party girl sentenced to "28 Days" (2000) of rehab, capably portraying both the hard-to-watch human weakness as well as humor of her addict characterization. Under her Fortis Productions banner, Bullock found time to launch the successful sitcom “George Lopez” in 2002, serving as the series executive producer after discovering Lopez in 2000. She was concerned about the lack of Hispanic-oriented sitcoms on American television and pushed to get a show on air starring Hispanics without being exclusively about their ethnicity. The show was a huge success for everyone involved and enjoyed a five year run. Back on the big screen, she impressed moviegoers with a turn as a tomboyish streetwise FBI agent posing as a polished beauty queen in the hit comedy "Miss Congeniality" (2002). Paired with Benjamin Bratt, Bullock further proved a delightful comedienne, flaunting her character's newfound grace with the appropriate gracelessness and earning another Golden Globe nomination in the process.
Playing a different type of law enforcement agent, Bullock starred as a homicide detective in the psychological thriller "Murder by Numbers" (2002) and returned to lighter fare as a Southern playwright in the film adaptation of the bestseller "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" (2002). She next went back to her romantic comedy roots, producing and starring with Hugh Grant in the underwhelming "Two Weeks Notice" (2002) as the aide-de-camp to a reckless mogul who does not appreciate the doting care she gives him. At this point in her career, Bullock was entering dangerous Doris Day territory, playing winsome, klutzy roles that were better suited for someone younger. However, her very brief turn in the racially charged, multi-plot drama "Crash" (2005) was a step in the right direction, with Bullock playing a middle-aged L.A. woman of privilege who, after a traumatic carjacking, angrily acts out on all of her worst prejudices and racial fears. The film went on to earn Best Picture of the Year at the Academy Awards.
In 2005, the sweetheart who had romanced some of her handsome co-stars – including McConaughey, one-time fiancé Tate Donovan whom she dated for four years, and the younger Ryan Gosling whom she met on the set of “Murder by Numbers” – finally found her soulmate in an unlikely, tattooed match. In July 2005, she married motorcycle icon Jesse James after dating for two years, surprising fans by becoming a stepmother to James’ daughter from a previous marriage. While her personal life was better than ever, she revived one of her biggest comedy hits with the sequel "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous" (2005), this time posing as a Las Vegas showgirl. While not as big a hit as its predecessor, it returned respectable box office. Taking a more serious turn, she portrayed author Harper Lee, friend of Truman Capote (Toby Jones), in the biopic "Infamous" (2006). Unfortunately, the film suffered from being released too close to a similar project on the infamous writer, “Capote” (2005). To the delight of filmgoing romantics everywhere, Bullock reunited with "Speed" co-star Reeves after 12 years in the romantic drama "The Lake House" (2006). Many thought the film about strangers who fall in love via letters they exchange through a mailbox that mysteriously bridges time an odd choice for their onscreen reunion, but the film was nevertheless a moderate success. In “Premonition” (2007), Bullock held up an otherwise mediocre thriller with her strong performance as a wife and mother living the perfect domestic life but nonetheless driven mad by foreknowledge of impending events, including the tragic death of her husband (Julian McMahon) in a car accident.
Showing no signs of leaving her comedy career behind, Bullock brought the appropriate befuddled exasperation to her starring role as a book editor who marries her Canadian assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to facilitate his legal status but has to then maintain the appearance of a real married couple in “The Proposal” (2009). She returned to the producer’s chair with another comedy, “All About Steve” (2009), in which she also portrayed an obnoxious romantic suitor whose wooing efforts border on stalking. Unfortunately, the film was a financial and critical bomb, leading many to question if Bullock's career could survive a project that most deemed an utter embarrassment. To make things more difficult, she and James petitioned the court to gain permanent custody of James' daughter, Sunny, after the child’s mother, former porn star Janine Lindemulder, was arrested and jailed six months for tax evasion. At least on Lindemulder’s side, the battle played out in the press, as the adult movie actress accused “America’s sweetheart” of ulterior motives. For her part, Bullock and James let the lawyers do the talking. By the end of an eventful year, the critical reception for Bullock’s third release of 2009, “The Blind Side" was decidingly more positive than it had been for her previous two romantic comedies. With a southern accent and dyed blonde hair, Bullock sparkled in the feel-good biopic of a southern family who takes in a homeless African-American youngster and ultimately helps him fulfill his potential as an All-American football star.
Despite taking a critical beating for "All About Steve" earlier in the year, Bullock had the last laugh, earning two Golden Globe nominations in late 2009 for Best Actress – one for comedy ("The Proposal") and one for drama ("The Blind Side"); she would win the latter. She also earned a Screen Actors Guild award for "The Blind Side," a precursor to an inevitable Oscar nod. Ironically, the same day Bullock heard the news of an Oscar nomination for "The Blind Side," she also received a Razzie nod for worst actress in "All About Steve." In a an odd twist of fate, she would go on to win both awards. Unfortunately, Bullock's post-Oscar glow was short-lived, when only a week and a half after tearfully thanking husband James from the podium for his love and support, In Touch Weekly broke the story that he had reportedly cheated on her with a tattoo model while she had been out of state filming "The Blind Side." Bullock went into hiding, canceling her European appearances to promote the film, while James issued a public apology of sorts, saying “There is only one person to blame for this whole situation, and that is me.” The infidelity scandal mushroomed into a media firestorm, leading one outlet to declare James "the most hated man in America."