Sandra Bullock is one of the most bankable actors in Hollywood. The Oscar winner’s films have grossed nearly $5 billion at the box office (more than her Gravity star George Clooney). And yet, she struggled in recent years to find challenging scripts that didn’t ask her to don another spacesuit or play one more thorny-on-the-outside-but-goofy-on-the-inside singleton. So she asked her agent to start sending her parts written for men.
“I thought of it a couple years ago before I did The Heat, when I was looking for comedies,” Bullock told TIME during a recent interview at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. “I said, ‘I want to do what Jim Carrey’s doing.’ I was looking for something he didn’t want.”
Consider that sentence: despite being one of the most bankable actresses in the world, Bullock wanted to scoop up the crumbs from Carrey’s banquet table. Imagine the parts women merely nominated for Oscars must be offered.
But Bullock employed her flip-the-script scheme to land the role of a ruthless political consultant in Our Brand Is Crisis — a part to which one of the film’s producers, George Clooney, was once attached. Indeed, Bullock is optimistic about the battle against sexism in Hollywood overall. She believes the Sony hack, for example, was a blessing in disguise. Some of the leaked emails revealed that actresses in Hollywood were not being paid as much as their male co-stars even if their roles in the film were equal in size and star power. She thinks the emails going public have made them impossible to ignore.
“Thank goodness Hollywood got a spanking,” she says. “It’s hard because why should I complain? Very few people get to do what we get to do. I know as a woman in the business, the likelihood of me still working at my age was almost impossible, and yet here I am.”
“Other women felt exactly the same way,” she adds. “And we felt shame because of it. Now something has shifted. All the women started bonding and going, ‘Wow, why don’t you get this? You did an amazing job. Why aren’t you getting part of the merchandising?’ We came together, shared this information and supported each other.”
Read the full story about Bullock and the other actresses hunting down Hollywood’s best roles—the ones written for men — here.
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