Bullock took some time off to 'live life'

The actress explains why she dropped out of sight and what brought her back.
Sandra Bullock has been a movie star ever since she drove that bus in the 1994 thriller "Speed."
Later, in such films as "While You Were Sleeping," "Miss Congeniality" and "Two Weeks Notice," she graduated from mere Hollywood star to wearing the crown of "America's Sweetheart."
Then she disappeared from view.
The 40-year-old actress returns to view today in "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous," the sequel to her 2000 hit comedy in which she played FBI agent Gracie Hart. Instead of infiltrating a beauty contest as she did in the original, Gracie gives Las Vegas a try.
Bullock produced this film, and she is the producer of the ABC sitcom "The George Lopez Show." She will act again in the upcoming film "Crash," directed by Paul Haggis.
In this interview, the actress explains why she dropped out of sight, what brought her back and what she thinks of that title, "America's Sweetheart."
Q. The last time we spoke, didn't you tell me that you were quitting the business?
A. Not quitting the business, but I did say I was taking time off. I definitely would have remembered if I had said that I was quitting the business.
Q. So, did you take the time off?
A. I took about a year-and-a-half off.
Q. Why did you take the time off?
A. There were other things I wanted to do, particularly behind the camera. Producing was more enjoyable to me at the time, and there wasn't anything incredibly dire that was out there that needed to have me attached. I needed to get off the treadmill for a while.
Q. So, what did you do during your time off?
A. I produced, and lived life.
Q. You lived life?
A. Yes, shocking, isn't it?
Q. What kind of life did you lead?
A. I lived life that has nothing to do with this business.
Q. Like what?
A. It's called the private side of the life; the side that doesn't end up in a magazine. It does exist, you know.
Q. Did you ever think that you might not come back?
A. Yeah. It was only supposed to be a year. Then it got a little longer, and a little longer, and a little longer. The great thing was that I never felt the need to get back in front of a camera. I didn't care that I wasn't on the cover of a magazine. I learned that you can go away and have normalcy.
Q. But you did come back.
A. Well, what happened was that I was having fun producing, and then Paul Haggis called and said he had this thing he wanted me to do. I told him I wasn't working, but then I read it and I wanted to be a part of it. I didn't care how big the part was; this was the kind of acting I always wanted to do.
Q. Was there any disappointment in learning that you needed to work in front of the camera again?
A.It wasn't a need to work in front of the camera; it was a need to work differently. Yes, I was dreading the whole process -- doing hair and makeup, having the camera on my face and all that -- but the material was too good to pass up.
Q. What about "Miss Congeniality 2?" That's just a big old-fashioned Hollywood sequel.
A. I saw that as an ensemble piece.
Q. I don't know how to break this to you, but you are the star of this movie.
A. But it also stars Regina King and other actors. And it was so unexpected how it came about. We never expected to do a sequel. I don't even want to call it a sequel. I think it can stand on its own. And it has something to say about what happens to someone if they do something oddly heroic in front of the camera. The world wants to dissect them and make them celebrities, and their lives are never the same.
Q. Gracie doesn't care what other people think. Are you like that?
A. I wish I were more like her.
Q. I thought you were just like her.
A. I strive for it, and I do it to a certain degree. But I'm not as bold as she is. She leaps without thinking, and I analyze everything.
Q. I always heard that you were fearless.
A. There is no such thing as a fearless actor.
Q. Are you comfortable with your fame?
A. Nobody is ever comfortable with fame. It's fleeting, and you have no control over it. It has nothing to do with you.
Q. Have you ever felt like it got out of control?
A. Not out of control, but once you figure out what it is, you have to learn to live your life in a certain way.
Q. Did you consider it a compliment when they called you "America's Sweetheart?"
A. It's not real so I didn't think about it very much. There's a different "America's Sweetheart" every time they have to promote another romantic comedy.
Q. You don't take compliments very well, do you?
A. No. I usually get insulting when someone pays me a compliment.
Q. Then I'll keep my mouth shut.