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Happy Birthday Sandra Bullock: America's Sweetheart as the 'Infamous' Harper Lee

America's Sweetheart as the 'Infamous' Harper Lee 

The world's most beautiful woman AKA Sandra Bullock turns 51 today. Never one to covet the spotlight the actor smartly broadened her scope, taking on roles well outside the rom-com genre that turned her into America's sweetheart years ago. That includes the role of Nelle Harper Lee in 2007's Infamous about Truman Capote's intimate relationship with the murderers he profiled in In Cold Blood

Infamous starring Toby Jones as Capote is far less famous than Capote starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman which came out a couple of years earlier. It's a lighter look that skims the surface of Truman Capote's dazzling life in the society and gliterati world of 1950's and 1960's New York. In light of the release of Go Set a Watchman, thinking about Bullock playing the reportedly reserved Harper Lee piqued my curiosity. I hope you'll find today's Slacker Sunday video, an interview with the actor and this excerpt from an About Entertainment interview as equally fascinating as I did.

Sandra Bullock on Playing a Very Reserved Character

It’s just what’'s written. I feel like everything I do is a character. Miss Congeniality is not me. I think playing myself would be incredibly boring. It wouldn't bring in an audience. It’'s how it was written, by the research that I did. What I was told, what I uncovered piece by piece, and it molded that person. Again, it’'s just the essence of a human being. We don’'t really know a lot about her and I think she’'d like to keep it that way. But, I was able to get bits and pieces from a lot of great sources that are close to her. A family [friend] of mine lives in Alabama that lives very close to Monroeville and is from roughly that time. That has that cadence, that accent. Monroeville is a totally different accent compared to Birmingham or anywhere else. It has, interesting enough, New Orleans influences. It’'s just little pieces together, but that is how it was written.
Crash was one kind of woman, Miss Congeniality is another kind of person. When I did Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, one of my first films, also a very reserved person.

It just depends on what is written.”

The Research Process

The real Nelle Harper Lee is a very private woman, but Bullock was able to find out a lot about the author of To Kill a Mockingbird through extensive research.
 “Given the material that does exist, taking that, taking photographs… How does she hold her body? How does she hold a cigarette? What do people who worked with her and knew her at the time say about her? What were her quirks? Everyone said she had an incredible sense of humor which made total sense to me. …My dad’'s part of the family is from Alabama and they are natural born storytellers of that time. They are all in that same age, that part of my family, and they can all tell a story because they survived the wars. They survived the Depression. They made something out of nothing.
The accent, we heard a little piece of her voice in the background of an interview with another woman and her laugh. There it is. She’'s a great golfer. People from the outskirts knew her and how she would approach things, her relationship with Truman. And then it all had to come down to what Doug [McGrath] wrote because we don’'t really know a lot about her. I used what I knew about her. There was a sea of stuff we found out from her notes, from what she went through with Truman. We think we found her notes, because they were vastly different from Truman’'s notes at that time. And each one of the pages, ‘T.C. and I went to the Clutters.’ Copious notes. She was a schoolteacher, and the notes were so meticulous. And then you saw the handwriting next to it that was very different from Truman’s, like a teacher. Teachers always have that superb handwriting. If that'’s what we found, I used a lot of what that was. She stuck to the facts. She was there to take notes for him and she didn't like that fact that he was flowering up information.” 
Bullock says they discovered the notes at the New York Public Library on microfiche. “All of the notes from his time are at the New York Public Library,” explained Bullock. “ 
You can go there. It’s pretty fascinating. A lot of notes, but after you’'ve been there a couple of hours you really get to know someone’s handwriting and personality of how they write something down, and scribble vs. these typed notes that were incredibly organized. We could be wrong, but it’s too close.”

On Truman Capote’s Work 

Bullock admits to having an average interest in Capote’s writing. “ 
I’'d read some of his works,” said Bullock. “You read it at an age where you go, ’Oh, that’s pretty cool.’ But, I don’t think you can fully appreciate his writing at 12. I think you can appreciate it as an adult when you have an understanding of the political climate and who he was and the tone of the time. Same thing with To Kill A Mockingbird, as a young child you read it and identify with the children, Scout and Dill, and what these incredible kids did at the time. Then as an adult you read it and you go, ‘What a statement! What a movement she created, for lack of a better word, when it wasn't cool to step out and say these things.’ How many people can say they have created a piece of art way beyond their lifetime here? It still applies. You read To Kill A Mockingbird and it resonates now just as much as it did back then.”

Infamous costume designer Ruth Meyers clearly went over the top with the Capote's clothing. I might have to dig into that one of these days; I think the famous writer would have been more conventionally dressed considering the times. I'm sure there's a ton of material available to dig into on that score so fellow costume design junkies, watch for an upcoming post.

Infamous also featured Daniel Craig as In Cold Blood murderer Perry Smith. Craig was just about to become the new James Bond which absolutely blows my mind. I was resistant at first, but now he's embedded himself into my heart and mind as one of my favorite Bonds. 

I wonder what Sandra Bullock makes of Go Set a Watchman? I wonder what you make of it, if you've read it yet. I've decided not to but at some point, I may just have to renege on my own decision.  Thoughts?