Full-disclosure: I produced an exclusive 30-minute special with Sandra Bullock and the cast of Our Brand is Crisis at TIFF, which you can watch here. Some behind-the-scenes details are below.
Our Brand is Crisis may as well be retitled “Our Brand is Sandra (Bullock).” Much like The Martian and Matt Damon, the film is sold completely on her personality. And last night Sandra, the movie star, was selling it. She brought her boyfriend Bryan Randall to the premiere. The two made no effort to hide from the paparazzi. They held hands, in plain view, while leaving the premiere. In the raw video of their exit (click here to watch), you can see Sandra blushing as she passes by her fans. This was the relationship message she wanted to send, and she wanted to wait until she was ready: Sandra Bullock is in love, is happy, and is relaxed.
When I met Sandra last month, she was relaxed then too. Relaxed, and ready to work. Lainey has written about this in the past – that Sandra will make an announcement about her personal life once she’s taken care of as many kinks as she can, and conveniently when it’s professionally advantageous for her career. Sandra also said something similar to the AP last week, when asked about whether or not she had adopted a second child:
“If I had a second adopted child, everyone would be hearing about it. I would be loud and clear and say, 'Yes, I have officially adopted a second child.' Right now, Louis must be it." (Source)
So why now? Sandra answered the question herself on the red carpet, when describing the film to ABC7:
“It’s about how far people will go to sell a product, and they’re getting paid and they’re going to win at all costs.”
That’s what Sandra’s doing here – except the product is herself, and the success of the film (which she also executive produced).
In the movie Sandra tackles a role originally intended for a man to play, possibly George Clooney. While George and his producing partner Grant Heslov held on to the rights for nearly eight years, it was Sandra who lobbied for them to recraft the part for her, and they did. The film’s buoyancy rests on her character’s (a political strategist, plucked from “retirement”) conviction and bloodlust to sell, spin and win this Bolivian election at all costs.
Our Brand Is Crisis is at best a three-star movie, which we don’t see enough of anymore. Not everything has to be an Oscar contender, some movies can just be “good.” The problem here, and what Sarah objected to in her review (click here to read it), is that it’s been so obviously presented to us as an Oscar contender when it really shouldn’t be part of that conversation.
The better conversation is the gender-flip which is what dominated the lines of questioning about the film since TIFF, and last night Sandra told the Press Association:
"I think some roles belong to the male sex, some to the female sex, I just think writing wonderful stories that embrace and support women is needed. I like men, I don't want the male roles to change, but I will go after a role if I think a woman can play it."
This refreshing attitude towards #StrongFemaleLeads and Hollywood was also on display during our interview in September. When Grant balked at revealing whether or not George was going to play the James Carville-inspired part which Sandra landed, Sandra joked that she had “masculine qualities.” Later, he said that the switch was easy, and that she’s the right man for the job. But Sandra was also quick to point out that “a lot of men said yes to [her] being a woman in this, versus ‘we’d rather cast a man’ because that’ll get more [sales].” And she joked too about how George wishes he could boss her or the cast around. She praised her fellow cast members Scoot McNairy and my girl Zoe Kazan in a way that felt authentic and unembellished. Zoe returned the favour by saying “there’s a reason why she’s the biggest movie star I can think of, and she’s also a phenomenal actress.” So basically, Sandra’s a leader and a great teammate, just in time for campaign season.