Sandra Bullock 2010

Sandra Bullock's Wild Ride, and (Once) Improbable Oscar Coronation

Chris Carlson / AP

Sandra Bullock accepts the Oscar for Best Actress at the 82nd Academy Awards in Los Angeles on March 7, 2010

Standing in front of an international audience clutching her Best Actress Oscar, Sandra Bullock was perhaps the only person at the Kodak Theatre willing to admit some level of surprise about her giddy ascension to the ranks of Meryl Streep and Dame Helen Mirren — two of the acting titans she sweetly steamrolled over for the acting honor.

"Did I really earn this?" she asked the assembled members of the Academy who had feted her with a rousing standing ovation, "or did I just wear y'all down?"

The answer would be a yes to both, but she might have added "charmed" to the equation. With her often outrageous sense of humor, self-deprecation and class throughout the long awards season, it has been easy to root for Bullock in her role as the outspoken matriarch Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side. "It just was such odd circumstances, and things came together in a way that I just didn't see coming, " Bullock said backstage at the Oscars. "That no one saw coming. And I think that's what makes it so overwhelming and unexpected."

Actually, many people saw this as a sure-thing vote. At some point it simply became her time. Bullock had been the favorite for various Best Actress awards in the weeks — even months — leading up to the Oscars, and it's almost hard to remember a time when it was unthinkable to see the 45-year-old actress at a podium.

Before 2009, that would have been pretty easy. Though Bullock was part of the ensemble cast of Crash, which won a Best Picture Oscar in 2006, even she seemed content to have a career marked as a box-office champion, screen comedienne and shrewd producer of such hits as Miss Congeniality and Two Weeks Notice.

"I was very happy working, and this came out of left field, " she said backstage. "I didn't aspire to this." Bullock had even said no to The Blind Side part, along with Julia Roberts, before she eventually changed her mind. But even after coming on board, she still struggled with the role, calling her first week on set the worst she had ever had. But somehow the role crystallized, and the family-friendly movie proved a major force at the 2009 box office. It was also the first female-led film to hit the $200 million mark.

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