Sandra Bullock Shut Down A Clueless Dude At TIFF & It Was Magical

Photo: MediaPunch/REX USA.
At the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of Our Brand Is Crisis, the new movie about a political strategist starring Sandra Bullock, a clueless man asked Bullock about her character’s hair.

Bullock plays “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a poltical strategist who is brought to Bolivia to apply her ruthless techniques to a struggling candidate in a presidential election, despite having tried to get out of the game. Jane, like many Bullock characters before her, doesn’t really care much for her appearance, and has let her dyed blonde hair grow out without touching up the roots.

This apparently baffled one man at the Q&A following the screening. “It was clear she had money, and all the money she’d ever need,” he asked. “And yet her hair was clearly two colors, black and white.”

Despite the inanity of the question, Bullock, hilariously, engaged. “I love talking about hair. It’s called root grow out,” she said, articulating the syllables in “root grow out.” Cheers erupted in the room when she explained that, yes, this was a concept familiar to the women in the room.

“Sometimes the roots grow out,” she said. “Sometimes they are grey and sometimes they are dark. It wasn’t white it was an ashy blonde. It was a very conscious decision to show there was a time in which she had money, you can tell by her clothes as well, that was a time she’s trying to let go.”

At that point the film’s producer George Clooney stepped in: “Aren’t you glad you asked that question?”

It would be hard to imagine that the question would have been directed at Clooney himself, which is funny because in an alternate universe Clooney might have played the part in Our Brand Is Crisis. The movie was written with a man in mind for the lead role. But, according to Bullock, when she got on board the character remained “basically the same, other than the sex.” The seamless gender change for the character “made you realize,” Clooney said, how many other roles for women “could be out there.”

Jane, as she appears in screen, feels very much like a quintessential Sandra Bullock heroine, a version of which you find in her rom coms, only Our Brand Is Crisis has no rom. (We don’t count the creepy advances her opponent strategist, played by Billy Bob Thornton, makes.) Jane is a talented woman who quotes The Art of War, Machiavelli, and Warren Beatty, but who is also sort of a disaster. Even though the part was first written for a man, the film uses the tropes of a smart woman who can't quite put herself together — a trope that Bullock excels at, but a trope nonetheless.

Met with altitude sickness upon reaching Bolivia, Jane tumbles out of the plane. She has a drunken night that rivals the one Bullock spent with Melissa McCarthy in The Heat. She moons the competition’s bus. (Asked about whether that was her real butt during the Q&A, Bullock joked that it was Clooney’s since he’s less “hairy” than she is, comparing her butt to a “chia pet.”) And while Jane’s sloppiness provides some of the movie’s humor — which is laugh-out-loud funny at times — the movie also makes it clear that she is someone who has endured serious mental health struggles, and who alternately relishes her job and hates the moral abyss it opens up inside of her.

I almost wish I didn’t know that the part was first for a man — or at least that it didn’t keep coming up — because that presents Bullock’s performance as the alternative to a man’s. But even if the role was just thought of as one meant for Sandra Bullock, she’d probably still get asked dumb questions about her hair.

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