'Underrated' Sandra Bullock Crackles in Congeniality

ByABC News
December 28, 2000, 7:56 PM

December 27 -- It might seem like a show-business cliché, but Sandra Bullock really is loved by everyone. Frequently hailed as the most down-to-earth, grounded and just plain nice star working today, Bullock can easily lay claim to the title of Miss Congeniality.

Which just happens to be the name of her new film, a comedy that writer Marc Lawrence describes as "Lethal Weapon at a beauty pageant and Sandy is Mel Gibson."

In a Golden Globe-nominated role, the 36-year-old actress plays Gracie Hart, a dedicated FBI employee who's somewhat lacking in the social and cosmetic arts. When a terrorist targets the (fictional) Miss United States pageant, Gracie must go undercover as one of the contestants, necessitating a drastic makeover for the style-challenged, tomboy agent.

Like macho Mel in his current movie, What Women Want, Sandra's character tries to figure out the mysteries of women's beauty products, from waxing (a tried-and-true laugh-getter in both films) to enhanced cleavage.

And as co-star Candice Bergen, who plays a former Miss United States-turned-pageant-organizer, notes, "women love transformation movies."

Nature vs. NurtureSince Gracie is, to put it kindly, no natural beauty, special attention was needed for her pre-makeover look. "The [early] Gracie Hart took half an hour to make up, only for the laying in the eyebrows," says Bullock. "We basically modeled her after my junior high school picture. I loved the way [she] looked." Agrees writer Lawrence, "I think Sandy uglies up pretty well."

"The end result is the Barbie doll, and it's something that requires many hours of construction on makeup and hair," says the actress, whose on-screen Gracie finally catches leading man Benjamin Bratt's eye after getting the glamour treatment. In her real life, says Bullock, "I prefer men to prefer the pre-makeover look."

Bullock, who didn't watch much TV as a child, saw her first beauty pageant in junior high. "I was fascinated by it, that there were creatures that looked that good," she says. "When I met some of them [to research the movie], I thought, 'Please be stupid,' but when they weren't, it pissed me off.