Sandra Bullock

From kooky love-interest in Speed to recovering alcoholic in 28 Days and hard-nosed detective in Murder By Numbers, this congenial brunette is now a bankable box-office star.

Sandra Bullock has come a long way since small roles in the '80s reunion of the TV series 'Bionic Man and Bionic Woman'. Her breakthrough movie was the high velocity, high concept thriller 'Speed' (1994) co-starring Keanu Reeves, which catapulted the then thirty-year old actress into a string of big budget action flicks and dramas.

Eleven years after 'Speed', having won plaudits for several roles, including a supporting one in the acclaimed 'Crash', the actress was to team up again with Reeves in the time travel romance 'The Lake House'. However, this time Bullock's earning power and box office bankability was now on par with her co-star.

The actress was born on 26 July 1964 in Arlington, Virginia, to father John who was an employee of the US army and part-time voice coach, and mother Helga who was an opera singer. As a result of her mother's career, a young Sandra spent time in Salzburg and Nuremberg while accompanying her mother on tour. She learnt German on her travels.

Having a vocal coach for a father and an opera singing mother no doubt helped nurture Bullock's creative talents as a child. Sandra spent her early years in Germany and, although not particularly noted for her singing skills, aged twelve she began performing on stage as part of a children's choir.

She also accompanied and performed with her mother, Helga Meyer, during many of her opera tours throughout Europe. Sadly Helga died from cancer in 2000. Also during her youth, Bullock studied ballet before attending Washington-Lee High School in Arlington County, Virginia where the family had moved to from Germany.

After arriving in Los Angeles Bullock, later to be voted twice by 'People' magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, began her early career with small roles in TV shows and remakes of movies. One of these was a television version of the hit '80s movie 'Working Girl' that originally starred Melanie Griffith. Further TV roles continued with Jackie Collins' Dynasty style 'sex and casino' mini series romp, 'Lucky Chances' where Bullock played one exotic Maria Santangelo, who, according to one critic was "lucky enough to die after the end of part one".

Despite appearances in pap TV, Bullock made a smart move into independent films where she could get her teeth into meatier roles. 'Who Shot Patakango?' (1989) was such a movie – a low budget, 'coming of age' drama set in the '50s. Although it didn't attract great reviews or set the box office alight, the film was a stepping stone for Bullock to more promising pastures and a much needed respite from the sausage factory of mini series and TV movies.

That's not to say Bullock didn't appear in her fair share of celluloid turkeys. The unfunny and pedestrian comedy 'Religion Inc' (1989) moved one reviewer to warn potential patrons to 'avoid it like the plague'. Other equally mediocre fare included 'When The Party's Over' (1992), a 'sex and friendship in the '90s' movie where Sandra played one of an ensemble of youngsters living in a posh LA house.

On her journey to becoming America's darling, girl-next-door star, Bullock's early roles usually saw her playing tough, but cute, New Yorkers. But Sandra's ability to melt audience's hearts and stir the loins of heterosexual men – without annoying their girlfriends too much - meant that even light fantasy comedies such as 'Love Potion No 9' were popular at the box office. Bullock's ability to shine in even the most crass of popcorn entertainment demonstrated that she had star quality that was eventually going to be noticed by the big players. Mobster movie 'Who Do I Got To Kill?' (1992) was an example of how Bullock, despite only given a small role, managed to make it memorable.

'The Vanishing' (1993), a remake of an acclaimed German film, saw Bullock starring opposite Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland. The disturbing mystery-thriller was to be the springboard for Bullock's career into the big-time as her next movie 'Demolition Man', a mega-budget sci-fi action affair, finally brought her international recognition. This goofy and expensive 21st Century cop movie starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes, was the pre-breakthrough movie Bullock needed to attract, if not better roles, certainly ones that were more generously paid. From being paid less than $300,000 in 1995 for the cyberspace thriller 'The Net', Sandra's wage jumped by several million the following year.

1994 was Sandra's year as she and action star Keanu Reeves cleaned up at the box office with the high velocity movie, 'Speed'. This exhilarating thriller embraced the high concept 'bomb on a bus' scenario all too literally. After the film's huge success, Bullock found herself in a string of successes with 'While You Were Sleeping' and 'A Time To Kill' (1996) from novelist John Grisham's best seller.

Part of Bullock's success is no doubt down to her on-screen versatility, where she can play high-end drama, but also turn to knockabout comedy with equal confidence. From gritty strong dramas such as '28 Days' (2000) to screwball capers like 'Miss Congeniality' (2000) where Sandra plays an undercover FBI agent in a beauty pageant, she is able to demonstrate an impressive aptitude for all genres.

Bullock's talent to constantly surprise her audiences has contributed to her ongoing success and encouraged casting her in socially challenging and Academy Award winning dramas such as 'Crash' (2004) which is said to be one of her finest performances yet.

Ironically, Bullock originally tried to produce the award winning 'Million Dollar Baby' movie through her own production company Fortis Films. At the time of pitching the idea the actress turned producer found studios uninterested in female boxing. Several years later the movie was later to be directed by Clint Eastwood and brought about Oscar awards both for him and the movie's young star Hilary Swank.

In 2009, Bullock starred opposite Ryan Reynolds in the hugely successful romantic comedy 'The Proposal'. The movie made more than $314 million at the box office worldwide.

Later that year the actress starred in 'The Blind Side', which was a success both critically and commercially. Despite previously turning down the role, Bullock went on to win the award for best actress at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild.

Although 2010 was a good year in the actress' professional life, things in her personal life took a turn for the worse. In April 2010, Bullock filed for divorce from her husband Jesse James following rumours of infidelity.
In a statement James said he was the "only person to blame" for the situation and hoped that one day his family would "find it in their hearts to forgive" him.

The actress announced that same year that she had adopted a baby boy named Louis who was born in New Orleans. She is now raising him as a single parent.

Despite the problems in her personal life, Bullock has continued to appear in successful films including 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' in 2011, which tells the story of a nine-year-old amateur inventor searching for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father who died in Twin Tower attacks. She next appeared in 'Gravity' with George Clooney in 2013 playing an astronaut stranded in space. Bullock was next seen in 'The Heat', which was released in 2013. Her latest part was a voice role in 'Minions' (2015).

Bullock has donated large amounts of money to charity over the course of her career, including millions of dollars to the American Red Cross.

In 2010 she gave $1 million to help relief efforts following the Haiti earthquake. The following year the actress donated $1 million to support those affected by the earthquake in Japan.