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WHY I'M STAYING SINGLE.

Byline: IVAN WATERMAN

THERE'S a natural ring of confidence circling Sandra Bullock. She's dazzling to look at in tight jeans, sandals and a simple black lace top.

But at the age of 37 the beautiful raven- haired bachelor girl who quit Hollywood to do it her way is a woman who does not have it all.

Single and with just a few failed relationships behind her, the Speed star is gripped by a fear of marriage, yet yearns to be a mother.

Though her parents were happily married for over 35 years, she has constantly held back when on the verge of making a commitment.

The actress dubbed "America's Girl Next Door" has a phobia over the rampant divorce rate in her business.

She spent close to a decade in Los Angeles watching temperamental superstar couples walk away from each other. To her, the parting of ways often seemed casual or plainly clinical.

The D list seems endless. There was her pal Meg Ryan's painful break-up with Dennis Quaid. Then Michael Douglas had to write a big cheque to his ex Diandra after falling for Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Of late, she's witnessed her friend Nicole Kidman's tears and the collapse of Andie MacDowell's so-called "everlasting" marriage. Then, Kim Basinger decided she'd had enough of hubby Alec Baldwin's explosive temper. All of which convinces Sandy that she's not going down the same route. "I have had two serious long-term relationships." she says, referring to actors Tate Donovan and Matthew McConaughey. "I committed twice and judging by what happened, that means I would have been divorced twice by now. "From where I am standing at the moment I don't think having a piece of paper necessarily means you will be happy and stay together forever. No way. If only, you wish, but life isn't like that. "Maybe I am an old-fashioned girl. Maybe I am an old-fashioned romantic. I don't see too much wrong with that. Maybe I even think the guy I marry should be as wonderful as my father. I have always looked up to him. "But the bottom line seemed to be, especially in my industry, that people were getting married fully expecting to get divorced. I have always been a perfectionist so that is definitely not my way of thinking. "If that means a certain Sandra Bullock is going to remain alone then that is the way it will have to be. And I don't need anyone feeling sorry for me. I have plenty to occupy me." Her romance with Tate Donovan, who she met on the comedy Love Potion No 9, was over by the time she got together with handsome McConaughey on the set of A Time To Kill. She moved to Texas to be near him. "I can't tell you the number of people who would come up to me after I met Matthew and say, 'You two are perfect together'. "After we made A Time To Kill, that's all anybody seemed to be saying. Then we made this documentary together and everyone expected us to get married. "So we kept everyone guessing. All I can tell you about Matthew is that we are dear, dear friends and we shall always be very close. He is a special, sensitive man.ONEday, I don't mean this to sound patronising, he is going to make some girl a very lucky young lady. He is just one of the most terrific people I have ever met." After McConaughey came a brief fling with musician Bob Schneider. But they are now also a past item. More recently there have been rumours about Sandra and her latest co-star, Hugh Grant. Gossips on the New York set of their comedy Two Weeks Notice say they have continued their on-screen romance off set. That was fuelled when they arrived hand-in-hand to the Oscars earlier this year. Throwing back her mane of hair and laughing, Sandra said: "I keep asking him to marry me but the rest is hype." Yet it is clear that a bond grew between them and there may have been some fire in all this smoke. "With Hugh it was one day I had the hots for him and then he had them for me. But that's us, we are so fickle. "In a previous life we may have been together but I think we are talking major personality clash here. I am his type sexually. I am sure he'd go to bed with me if I asked. But I am not going to and I am equally sure he is busy enough in that department in any case. "If truth be known, I adore the guy but that's it. At one time I had people asking me on the set whether I was pregnant. Then a girl told me I was three months pregnant by Hugh which was news tome. "Hugh would be standing there grinning making things worse saying 'And what shall we call our son?' Aaargh!This is all very flattering if only it were true. I am sure Hugh will make great wedding material one day as will I. But for the moment we are not an item." Marriage and being alone is obviously something that preoccupies her greatly. Her face darkens as she tries to come to terms with the basic contradiction in her life - she is petrified of marriage but desperately wants children. "I am not the marrying kind butI am the children kind so I have to deal with this fear of marriage or divorce," she frowns. "I know that I am not worried about my biological clock. My piping is fine. I have had it checked out. Perhaps by this time next year I will be married and knocked up and loving every second of it." Her genuine sadness is that her German-born mother Helga, who was an opera singer, died from cancer two years ago and will not see any grandchildren. She fought the disease for five years and Bullock says: "What happened to her was devastating yet it brought some of the most beautiful moments of our family life.WEtalked a lot. Before she died we had five good years to fix anything we might have had broken in our relationship. Everything wasn't perfect but we did make amends." In career terms Bullock has, as she nudges 40, reached something of a crossroads. Since resettling in Austin, Texas - where she built her own mansion on a ranch - she has been plotting her future through her LA-based production company Fortis Films. Her father John, a former Pentagon official, is chief executive and her younger sister Gesine is president of the company which co-produced the comedy Practical Magic and the box- office hit Miss Congeniality. The company shares the credits on her latest movie,the pounds 40million psychological thriller Murder By Numbers, out next Friday, and Two Weeks Notice. This production success has given her Hollywood clout and the power to make movies on her own terms. Back in 1993, the shy and unknown Bullock swore she'd never strip again after blistering rows with director Luis Llosa on the low-budget Brazilian drama Fire On The Amazon. So when the moment arrived for her seduction of British actor Ben Chaplin in Murder By Numbers she had the power to insist that her clothes remained firmly on. "I don't think any actress enjoys taking their clothes off for no reason," she says. "Least of all just to appeal to certain elements in the audience. That kind of stuff is really yesterday. I think,and I believe enough people share my opinion, that you don't always need nudity to get a point across. My body has had enough exposure. If I thought for a second it would help, it would addsomething, then I might reconsider." She pauses and grins: "Then I'd get the sticky tape out to cover the naughty bits!" Bullock made her breakthrough in the action movie Speed alongside Keanu Reeves after convincing director Jan de Bont he needed her and not a leggy blonde to drive his bus to safety. The weepie While You Were Sleeping and conspiracy thriller The Net confirmed her arrival in Hollywood. And she went on to play a lawyer in the Deep South drama A Time to Kill. Though she runs through her CV suggesting she can handle any script thrown at her, she jokes that her epitaph will almost certainly be "Here Rests The Girl Next Door", a distinction she shares with Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts. She laughs that the trio even use the same dentist and hair stylist in Beverly Hills when she's in town. She says: "We have an agreement. I say 'Hey Meg, you have to stay blonde and Julia, you can go red but don't go any darker than light brown because I'm going to go brunette'. "We all discuss being this 'Girl Next Door' and what she's doing with her life. "You know, you can get called worse things."

CAPTION(S):

OLD FLAME: With ex-lover Matthew McConaughey; GOOD FRIENDS: With co-star Hugh Grant in Cannes this year; MOVIE ROMANCE: With Ben Chaplin in Murder By Numbers
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 22, 2002
Words:1526
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