Reborn in space

Reborn in space

LOS ANGELES - Sandra Bullock quit her job about three years ago, which is quite something if you consider that she was probably the most successful actress on the planet at the time.

It was mid-2010. Bullock, then 45, had just won her first Oscar for playing a big-hearted football mum in the tearjerker The Blind Side. A few months later, she was named the highest-paid actress in Hollywood by Forbes magazine, with more than US$56 million banked in from June 2009 to June 2010.

No one would blame her, though, for her decision to withdraw from the public eye - shortly after the Oscar came the very public collapse of her marriage to motorcycle maven Jesse James.

As multiple women came forward to spill the beans on the 41-year-old television host's extramarital activities, Bullock realised she would have to divorce him and raise Louis, the baby boy she had secretly adopted earlier that year, alone.

But a few projects have managed to lure her from her hiatus, including the newly released space thriller Gravity.

Bullock has top billing in the film, where she plays Dr Ryan Stone, a Nasa medical engineer on her maiden spacewalk with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) when disaster strikes and they become untethered from the shuttle.

The US$100 million (S$125 million) movie has wowed critics and audiences in North America, where it earned US$55.6 million when it debuted last week, making it the most successful October opening of all time in the United States.

There is already talk of another Oscar nomination for the versatile actress who, if nothing else, will certainly reclaim her crown as queen of the box office.

Bullock's two-decade career and 30-odd films - from her breakout action role in Speed (1994) to dramas including the Oscar-winning Crash (2004) and her trademark comedies such as Miss Congeniality (2000) and The Proposal (2009) - have amassed an astonishing US$3.5 billion in ticket stubs.

So it is understandable that there has been quite the buzz about Gravity which, together with this year's box-office-topping comedy The Heat, is viewed as signalling her big comeback this year.

In all the excitement, however, the actress has been characteristically calm and understated about the significance of it all. At a press conference in Los Angeles, the 49-year-old is a serene, almost austere presence as she sits facing a gaggle of reporters, largely unsmiling and with eyes downcast for the duration of the session.

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