Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock © Touchstone Pictures

It’s been several years since Sandra Bullock appeared in a romantic comedy, but she’s back in her favorite genre with The Proposal, as high-powered New York book editor Margaret Tate, a Canadian immigrant who faces deportation. But the quick-thinking executive persuades her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds), whom she’s tormented for years, to marry her, and the unlikely couple flies off to Alaska to meet his quirky family.

You’ve done a few romantic comedies before. What was it about this one that you wanted to say yes to it?

Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock © Touchstone Pictures

Well, I had stopped doing them six or seven years ago. They’re terrible. They’re not funny and they shouldn’t be a romantic comedy, because most of the time they’re not romantic. This reminds me of the films from the ’30s and ’40s where there was a story and drama was allowed to be in there. You can’t have good comedy without drama in it. And they don’t generally write well for women in romantic comedies. I love my comedy too much to bastardize it with bad romantic comedy. So I was like, ‘Okay. That’s done.’ I’m going to find another way to work and do it in a way that I love.

Did you want to emulate anybody from the ’30s or ’40s?

Sandra Bullock © Touchstone Pictures

No. The beauty of this was that everything was a character. The setting of Alaska was a character, which we’ve lost in film-making, especially in comedies – we don’t remember the setting. I love people in elements that they’re not used to; typical fish out of water. The costume designer designing clothes that helped the comedy, that sold the character. Each and every detail was so perfectly thought out. That’s a lost art. People order clothes out of a catalogue, put it on an actor and everything is generic. This was building something from the ground up. I give it to Pete [Chiarelli]. I just bow at his feet for writing this, because every single character, every single person in this film you could watch for two hours and make a whole other film on, and that’s great writing.

How did you get such a likable energy into this bitchy character?

Because I’m a horrible, evil bitch but I’m a good actress and I can act like a really sweet person. [she laughs] Everyone has it in them. It’s such a joy to be able to play someone who is angry. It’s a joy and a relief. Having to be nice all the time is exhausting and boring.

You and Ryan have known each other for years, but what did you learn about him from working with him for the first time?

Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds © Touchstone Pictures

They said that Ryan was going to do it and I said, ‘That’s the only person that I could do this with. That’s why I want to step back into it.’ I was a little worried that the familiarity would be a little weird, but I think for me everything is musical in my life. For me timing is a rhythm. Ryan and I can be doing a scene facing the camera and somehow our back and forth and our rhythm, we know when to stop and when to volley. It’s like music. You need to have the ability to figure out people’s rhythms. It all starts from the script, those words and attitudes. I really am thankful that I got to do this with people who taught me how to do it better. I had to raise the bar and I was so thankful.

What was it like doing the nude scene with Ryan?

Sadly, my first and last nude scene got laughs. I had to be very secure with that. It was all about choreography. I mean, literally when you read it on the page you saw it and then you realized, ‘Okay, there’s no way to shoot this unless you’re buck naked.’ Then I went, ‘Go to the gym. Cut out the carbs.’ But if it turned out funny it was worth it. I’m glad that it made people laugh, but shooting it was odd. There are things stuck to it and generally you don’t have things stuck to it. I mean, there are things covered, but not stuck to it. Then you got unstuck and oddly we didn’t care because we were so tired!

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane