What if you find out on Monday that your husband died? You tell the kids, arrange the funeral then cry yourself to sleep. But what if you wake up the next morning, and find him alive? Would you lose your mind? Would you think it was just a bad dream? These are some of the many questions tackled in Sandra Bullock’s new film Premonition.
At a recent press conference for the film, even more questions came up. Present that day were the film’s director Mennan Yapo, screenwriter Bill Kelly and the two lead cast members Sandra Bullock and Julian McMahon. I must say, the foursome pulled together in positive team spirit to defend their work to a room full of confused and borderline rude reporters.
With subjects ranging from godsons to daughters to dogs, journalists seemed to try their hardest to steer the conversations off topic, possibly to avoid touching the sticky subject that is the film’s time traveling plot. Bullock plays housewife Linda who lives her week in out of order days. The present is the past, the past is the future. The whole debacle is quite messy.
At the end of this conference, I had learned lots of random trivia actually. Apparently actor Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck), who plays Jim, Linda’s dead/alive husband, thinks he isn’t a good enough actor to go into politics (his father was the former Prime Minister of Australia). Or did you know that Sandra Bullock fulfilled her godson’s biggest Christmas wish when she took him to a taping of Monster Garage? That’s where she met her husband Jesse James. In fact, Bullock enjoys marriage so much that she took time off from making movies for a year.
It was Premonition that brought her back to work. “This was a beautifully written thriller that had incredible depth and was very complicated”, Bullock says. Inspired by Otto Preminger’s Laura, screenwriter Bill Kelly (Blast from the Past) thought about the concept of living the days of the week out of order and wrote the script. Judging by his previous work, it seems the writer has an affinity for time travel.
Yet everyone agreed that there is more to this psychological thriller than first meets the eye. Yapo, directing his first Hollywood picture after making his debut feature Soundless in Germany, says “It’s about finding love again”. In fact, being stuck in this unpredictable cycle of days, our protagonist is able to revisit the past, reevaluate her life and make changes to her stale marriage. “People should make the most of every moment in their life”, insists Kelly. Wise words…
To further address the movie’s theme of carpe diem, Bullock adds: “I believe you have an incredible amount of control in your own happiness. Some people wait for it to come, but if you’re complacent and you’re miserable, you really need to take a look at yourself and find what you need to do to make your life [better].” And happy she looked.
Though Bullock didn’t have a chance to work out her comedy muscle on this film, she did have the opportunity to brush up on her foreign language skills. The actress, who is Half American/Half German was thrilled to be collaborating with Yapo who hails from Munich. Yapo recalls “It was a huge help that Sandra spoke German. … [When] German words [would] come out of my mouth, Sandy could understand them”. Lucky for him nothing was lost in translation.
Playing a character far from Miss Congeniality, Bullock confirms that on top of the story’s askew timeline, it was also a tough shoot emotionally: “I had the hardest time working. You have to get yourself to an emotional state of grief, all levels of grief, every single day, for 12 hours a day, for three months in a row, in Shreveport, Louisiana with no flight back home… That is probably why I didn’t work for a year after, because I felt I needed a vacation!”
Fortunately, production granted Bullock’s wish to shoot close to home (Austin, Texas), scheduling the location for New Orleans right before Hurricane Katrina hit. “I wanted to be in the middle of the United States. I love New Orleans. I love the way it looks and the way it feels. Then the storm hit and so we moved to Shreveport which proved to be a great place.”
The Hurricane might have forced production to relocate, but Bullock’s heart was with the victims. McMahon confirms that she just is as kind as she seems. “She is an extraordinary person. Beyond what we all see, beyond what her public persona is…she did everything she could to help people who had no more home, no more identity, no more clothing. She’s just a very beautiful person.”
When asked if choosing a complicated thriller might affect her status as a one of Hollywood’s A-list, she bluntly retorts: “I couldn’t give a shit about my status. My status has been knocked off the pedestal so many times. If I don’t perform the way people expect me to perform, your status will be knocked off the pedestal anyway. You can’t control it. I couldn’t control whether people liked me in the beginning, and I can’t control if they’ll like me in the end. So at some point, if you’re lucky, you have that great epiphany of ‘why don’t I just do what I love, try to read [reviews] as little as possible, try to get my feelings hurt as little as possible and just do what my gut tells me is the right thing to do?”
Good to hear that after years in the spotlight, she has managed to stay grounded and is smart enough to give a room full of snide journalists a piece of her beautiful mind.