New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... - Amy Preb­ble

How a dis­as­ter led to love

Chil­dren weren’t al­ways on the cards for Hol­ly­wood sweet­heart San­dra Bullock. By the time she hit her for­ties, she was en­joy­ing screen suc­cess with films such as Miss Con­ge­nial­ity 2, but had started to think that it might be too late for her to start a fam­ily.

How­ever, when Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina dev­as­tated New Or­leans in 2005, all of that changed.

“Ka­t­rina hap­pened. And I knew. Like, just some­thing told me that my child was there. It was weird,” San­dra (53) tells.

The ac­tress, pro­ducer and phi­lan­thropist, who is mum to Louis (8) and Laila (6), be­gan the adop­tion process shortly af­ter the dis­as­ter, but it was time­con­sum­ing and drain­ing. “It was this process of fill­ing out forms, be­ing judged about who you are as a hu­man be­ing,” she says.

It was sev­eral years be­fore she got to meet Louis. In that time, a huge amount had gone on in her life, in­clud­ing a di­vorce from then-hus­band Jesse James.

The adop­tion may have taken a while, but the bond be­tween her and Louis was in­stant. “I just said, ‘Oh, there you are.’ It’s like he had al­ways been there. It’s like he fit in the crook of my arm. He looked me in the eyes. He was wise. My child was wise.

The beau­ti­ful thing that I was con­stantly told was, ‘The per­fect child will find you. You will find your child.’”

San­dra’s own child­hood was un­con­ven­tional. Born in Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia, her voice coach fa­ther John (93) and Ger­man-born opera singer mother Helga − who died in 2000 of can­cer at the age of 58 − moved San­dra and her sis­ter Ge­sine (48) back and forth be­tween Europe and the US for her mother’s per­for­mances.

De­spite her no­madic up­bring­ing, San­dra has put down roots in Louis’ home­town, buy­ing a house in New Or­leans’ pop­u­lar Gar­den District so he can grow up there. San­dra says it was Louis who en­cour­aged her to find her daugh­ter, whom she adopted in 2015. “Louis has a very strong way and he’s a fine leader, and he led me to Laila.” Un­sur­pris­ingly, the Os­car win­ner is a big ad­vo­cate for adop­tion.

“There are hun­dreds of thou­sands of chil­dren that are ready to be your child. You’re a for­ever par­ent the minute you ac­cept the love of that child.

“And it’s amaz­ing to me how we can take away peo­ple’s hap­pi­ness by telling them this is the box you have to stay in. There is no box.”

She con­tin­ues, “I’m all for Repub­li­can,

Demo­crat, what­ever, but don’t talk to me about what I can or can’t do with my body un­til you’ve taken care of ev­ery child who doesn’t have a home or is ne­glected or abused. It makes me teary-eyed. Let’s all just re­fer to these kids as

‘our kids’. Don’t say ‘my adopted child.’ No-one calls their kid their ‘IVF child’ or their ‘Oh, s***, I went to a bar and got knocked-up child.’ Let’s just say ‘our chil­dren’.”

San­dra, who is cur­rently dat­ing pho­tog­ra­pher Bryan Ran­dall (52), says that her chil­dren are now her com­plete fo­cus. “So my pri­or­i­ties are my kids, my kids, my kids. My fam­ily. My fam­ily. That’s it.

“Ev­ery­thing is about them be­ing okay, be­ing in school, hav­ing what they need, their mo­ments. I need to be there for ev­ery sin­gle mo­ment they have. It’s harder for me to leave them than I think it is for them when I leave. I don’t leave that much and I don’t work that much any more.”

She hasn’t com­pletely left the pub­lic eye, though. She re­ceived Os­car and Golden Globe nom­i­na­tions for Best Ac­tress for Grav­ity in 2013 and was also named “Most Beau­ti­ful Woman” by Peo­ple mag­a­zine in 2015. This year, she’ll ap­pear in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic hor­ror film, Bird Box, with John Malkovich. She is also cur­rently pro­mot­ing her lead role in new heist com­edy Ocean’s 8, play­ing Deb­bie Ocean. Cate Blanchett, Anne Hath­away, Mindy Kal­ing, Sarah Paul­son, Ri­hanna and He­lena Bon­ham Carter make up the rest of the stel­lar cast.

San­dra says it was won­der­ful work­ing with a group of mainly women. “We were able to bond and con­nect be­cause we were work­ing crazy long days. We were draped all over each other on a couch at mid­night and once we let our guard down and re­alised we’re in the com­pany of safe peo­ple, I think we all sort of be­gan the vomit fest.”

The ac­tress be­lieves the film is about more than clothes, bur­glary and fancy jewellery.

“It’s about women tak­ing care of each other. Women be­ing good to each other, women step­ping back and let­ting the more gifted step for­ward in the heist or what­ever. Recog­nis­ing talent and say­ing, ‘Go out and shine. I’ve got your back.’”

San­dra was in the process of adopt­ing Louis in 2010 when she split from her hus­band of al­most five years Jesse James (be­low), amid claims he’d re­peat­edly cheated on her.

The cover girl has shifted her fo­cus to her kids Louis and Laila (pic­tured be­low with boyfriend Bryan), but she has taken on a few film roles, such as Ocean’s 8 and Grav­ity (top).

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