Fifty. It’s an age that sends shivers of terror through many Hollywood actresses, a milestone year that used to spell the end of careers and the start of regular appointments with a plastic surgeon.
But not for Sandra Bullock. Instead, America’s perennial sweetheart is choosing to welcome the milestone on July 26 with her trademark humour, candour and (lack of) grace.
And she’s determined she won’t be “put out to pasture”.
“It’s cold and I’m allergic to grass, and the cows are mean,” she quipped as she accepted yet another accolade.
Beautiful, with warm crinkles around her eyes and a brow that reassuringly still furrows in the absence of Botox, the Oscar winner is entering her fifties in the finest form possible, and is also leading something of a “golden era” for middle-aged actresses, say Hollywood insiders.
She’s much more than an actress: she can add restaurateur, production company owner, activist and producer to her resumé if she wishes. But it’s the title of mother that means the most to her. Four-year-old Louis, whom she adopted in 2010 from hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, is her true secret to how she defies both age and gravity.
“I feel happier, better and younger now than I did 10 years ago,” she explains. “I looked old then and I felt like an old person falling apart. Now I can’t wait to get up in the morning. I can’t wait to have an adventure with my son.
“I feel like I am a little mischievous kid because I have this different perspective. Why did I worry about all that other garbage?”
Life is good at the moment, she admits. Currently dating 33-year-old actor Chris Evans, with just the right amount of acting projects in the pipeline that allow her to spend as much time with Louis as possible, Sandra is pragmatically relishing the happy moments.
“When people are like, ‘Life is so good’, I go, ‘No, life is a series of disastrous moments, painful moments, unexpected moments and things that will break your heart. And in between those moments, that’s when you savour, savour, savour.’”
Born in Virginia to a German opera singer mother and an American voice coach father, performing was in the blood – and she remains one of the few actresses that can seamlessly switch between comedy and drama.
But 2014 is a quiet time for Sandra, especially compared with last year, when two of her greatest successes screened – The Heat and Gravity – so there are more moments to enjoy with Louis, and increasingly, Chris.
While she’s definitely in no need of a hero, her relationship with the Captain America star has clearly become serious.
But sources close to the actress say that partly due to her humiliating split with husband Jesse James in 2010 – only eight days after she won her Oscar for The Blind Side – she “hasn’t allowed their relationship to go further... yet”.
“Sandy B was my girl,” says Chris. “I remember seeing Speed when I was in seventh grade and just thinking, ‘That’s my lady!’ I literally had a big poster [of her].”
It’s taken a long time for Sandra to open her heart to love again. She admits she was left devastated after Jesse admitted to a long-standing affair with tattoo artist Michelle McGee.
“I’ve been on the floor and I’ve been heartbroken,” Sandra confesses. “I didn’t know how I was going to stand up. But I just gave it time.
“Falling in love – you should go with it, regardless of whether or not your heart gets smashed. You’ll be a better person.”
And she could be opening her heart to one more person soon, with Sandra admitting last year that she constantly thinks about welcoming another child into her household.
“I think about it every day for [Louis] because I have so many blessings,” she says. “[Before him] I had no idea what love was, I had no idea what lack of sleep was. I had no idea what milestones felt like. [And] Louis just loves people and kids and family. He migrates towards it.”
Now as she balances a new relationship with the needs of her son as she enters her fabulous fifties, Sandra says she is grateful for every opportunity that comes her way.
“I don’t know how, but here I am and I’m not taking any of it for granted.”