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  1. Culture
2 July 2015

Sandra Bullock visited the studio – but Steve Wright kept talking as though she wasn’t there

“Sandra Bullock is quite simply the world’s most successful actress,” he informed Sandra Bullock.

By Antonia Quirke

Steve Wright in the Afternoon
BBC Radio 2

A parallel universe suddenly appeared on BBC Radio 2 (26 June, 2pm), when Sandra Bullock visited the studio but Steve Wright kept talking as though she wasn’t there.

“Sandra Bullock is quite simply the world’s most successful actress,” he informed her. Too professional to be fazed by someone a foot away speaking to her about her in the third person, she interjected with a modest: “Hardly . . .”

“No, it’s true,” insisted Steve, determined to apprise Sandra Bullock of the good luck of someone called Sandra Bullock. “Her films have made over 3.6 BILLION dollars worldwide. Her last movie, Gravity, became a global smash and gave Sandra her biggest hit so far! And now she’s back, lending her voice to the spin-off of the hugely popular Despicable Me, which made $1bn worldwide and is the most profitable film in the history of Universal Studios.”

Two things crossed my mind. First, please can this radio be a TV for a sec, because I’d love to see Bullock’s (doubtless exquisitely diplomatic) face? And second, since when did we all turn into such deathly statisticians when it comes to movies?

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You hear this kind of stuff more and more – profits, losses, records, distribution models – as though we were all sitting there like Tony Curtis on the beach in Some Like It Hot, pretending to read the commodity headlines in the Wall Street Journal. (“I’ll bet just while we were talking you made, like, $100,000!” cries Marilyn Monroe.) Just a few hours later, they were at it on the BBC World Service’s More or Less, stunned at the success of Jurassic World. “Let’s crunch the data on films! Now, it’s international sales that really make the difference. Let’s consider inflation . . .”

However interesting all this stuff might well be, its wild proliferation feels like a kind of denial – a sad moment of irretrievability in a failed love affair, banging fiercely on about the figures of underloved mega-hits as though cinema were nothing more than a process of organisation and management. It makes the whole form feel so dead and distant from us – and in a supremely contemporary way – stopping us from bravely reaching through the veil to the thing itself: the movies. How can we have got so far away from the thing we loved? 

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