Secrecy and discretion are hardly words you associate with bare-all, tell-all Hollywood.
But for Sandra Bullock and her partner Bryan Randall, they were mottoes by which they lived.
While some men might have been tempted to use their famous partner’s name to gain special treatment, Randall – ‘the love of my life’, as 59-year-old Bullock once called him – was the polar opposite.
As his friend Sarah Killingsworth told The Mail on Sunday last week: ‘He was the sweetest man and an absolute gentleman. He was super-private about his relationship with Sandra and used to say to me ‘I’m a vault’. He wouldn’t even say her name.’
Killingsworth and husband Robert got to know the Oscar-winning actress’s partner because he was a keen fisherman and ordered equipment from their business in California.
For Sandra Bullock and her partner Bryan Randall, they were mottoes by which they lived
While some men might have been tempted to use their famous partner’s name to gain special treatment, Randall – ‘the love of my life’, as 59-year-old Bullock once called him – was the polar opposite
Rare photos obtained by DailyMail.com show late Bryan Randall in his early modeling days in France
‘He was a Pacific north-west boy,’ she says. ‘He came from the mountains and the rivers and he was a devoted salmon fisherman. We used to joke that we would open a Hollywood fishing tackle shop together.’
Now it’s emerged it was with the same discretion and down-to-earth values that Randall and Bullock dealt with the profoundly sad news he had Motor Neurone Disease.
Some celebrities may have chosen such a moment to do a tell-all interview, publicising their partner’s plight. Others may even have signed up to a reality TV show, to ‘shine a light’ on the truth of such an illness.
Not Bullock. Randall’s illness only became public last week, when it was announced that he had died at the age of 57, three years after he was diagnosed.
For those three years, not one word of his illness leaked out. Amid speculation about their relationship, Bullock remained silent, focusing on her partner, their family, and managing the terrible reality of his illness.
In 2020 there were wild rumours that the couple’s relationship was on the rocks because Randall, a handsome former model and successful photographer, had not been seen with Bullock as she filmed the drama The Unforgivable. Bullock said nothing, merely leaving it to her agent to deny the rumours.
Randall was diagnosed with ALS in 2017, but the couple kept his battle with the disease a secret until his death on August 5. They are pictured above October 2017
The couple, who kept their relationship out of the spotlight, pictured at the world premiere of Oceans 8 in 2018
Meanwhile Randall moved into one of Bullock’s properties in Malibu, while she divided her time between there and her main home in Beverly Hills with her two adopted children.
In June last year, Bullock announced she was taking an acting hiatus. ‘Right now, work in front of the camera needs to take a pause,’ she said, claiming she wanted to focus on her children. ‘I want to be at home.’ The secret truth was, however, that Bullock was dealing with what her sister Gesine last week described as ‘this cruel disease’.
Such iron-willed resolve not to use this personal tragedy for professional exposure, nor to be tempted to quell the hurtful rumours about their relationship by revealing the truth, are now, in hindsight, all-too admirable.
Last family outing: Sandra Bullock and her longtime partner Bryan Randall were last seen out together in Studio City in July, 2020 along with her two adopted children Louis, 13, and Laila, 11. Randall died on August 5 following a private three-year battle with ALS
Heartbreaking: The photographer, seen beaming here three years ago, wanted to keep his journey with ALS private, his family shared on Monday
The truth was only discovered by Sarah Killingsworth, too, last week: ‘Randall disappeared some time in 2021 and we didn’t hear from him and he stopped answering my emails. I thought it was a bit strange but figured that he had just moved on. We had no idea that he was sick. I don’t think many people did. It’s such a tragedy.’ Actress Octavia Spencer was one of many celebrities expressing condolences, saying Bullock had lost ‘her soulmate’, adding ‘the world lost a talented, handsome, all-around good guy!’
Such sorrow is even sharper for friends of Bullock’s because, until she met Randall in 2015, her love life had been a disaster.
She may have been ‘America’s sweetheart’ after making a series of hit rom-coms but she had a string of failed relationships with actors such as Tate Donovan, Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Gosling.
Having spent much of her childhood in Germany (where her mother was born), she moved back to the US in her late teens and spent years slogging away on TV movies because, she said, she wasn’t ‘conventionally beautiful enough’ to be a leading lady.
Family time: Bullock has two adopted children — son Louis, 13, and daughter Laila, 11 — and Bryan has an adult daughter named Skylar from a previous relationship (seen in 2018)
Her plus one: The couple seen at the London premiere of Oceans 8 in 2018
However, she scored a series of cinema hits – including Speed, A Time To Kill and Miss Congeniality. Then in 2010 she won an Oscar for her role as a mother taking in a troubled African-American teen who went on to become a successful football player in The Blind Side.
However, just two weeks later it was revealed that her husband Jesse James – the tattooed host of a cable TV show called Monster Garage, who she had married in 2005 – had been serially unfaithful. Bullock was devastated.
Donald Biehn, Bullock’s acting coach when she was a student and later her mentor, told me last week: ‘Sandy’s had some tragedies in her life, including that rat husband exposed as a cheater. But when it happened, she kept out of the limelight until she was ready to come back. I think that will happen now too.’
He said as an aspiring actress, ‘she was well-prepared, enthusiastic and didn’t have any ego’, adding: ‘She wasn’t interested in being a star. All she wanted was to be a good actress.
‘When success came, she didn’t let it go to her head.
‘She’s always been a delight and completely unpretentious.’
Friends had been surprised when the endearingly independent Bullock announced she’d married James. Five years younger, he had had a first marriage, fathered two children and was trying to untangle himself from a second marriage to a porn star who was pregnant with their son.
Claiming it was a celebration of her 41st birthday, Bullock invited 270 friends, including co-stars Keanu Reeves, Hugh Grant and William Shatner, to what was in fact a surprise wedding.
The couple seemed happy, but then, as she was basking in the glow of her Oscar win, an American tabloid published an interview with a tattoo artist and model called Michelle ‘Bombshell’ McGhee, who said she and James had been having an affair. Another tattoo artist disclosed she had also been having an affair with him.
In the aftermath, James callously referred to Bullock as ‘some Hollywood actress,’ claimed he had lost his bearings and wanted to get back to his former life. He is now reportedly on his fifth marriage.
Bullock went into seclusion and, when she emerged, declared she had filed for divorce. It seems that it was through bringing up her son as a single mother that the actress met, and began dating, Randall after he was hired to take photos of her son’s fifth birthday.
Sandy’s had tragedies… including that rat husband
Randall, too, had had a bumpy past. Born in Oregon, he moved to Los Angeles and attended acting school. With his easy charm, good looks and 6ft 3in height, he became a fashion model, appearing in the French edition of Vogue and working for Hugo Boss and Saint Laurent.
In the 1990s, he went into rehab for substance abuse while his fiancee was pregnant with their daughter. He was not around for his girl’s early life and was taken to court for non-payment of £1,500 in child support and was arrested twice for drink-driving and a probation violation.
His fiancee, who had a heroin habit, died after being in a coma and Randall is said to have ‘stepped up as a father’ to their daughter when she was 14. Sober for years, he became utterly devoted to his daughter, who is now 29.
Before meeting Bullock, Randall took classes at the prestigious Anthony Meindl acting workshop in Los Angeles, where owner Anthony Meindl said: ‘He was a fun guy but we also had long, deep conversations about his journey to sobriety and healing. We all have challenges and he was very proud of what he achieved and he stayed sober. He moved on to photography. His pictures were beautiful.
‘I didn’t know he was sick. It’s very sad. My heart goes out to Sandra. She pulled back, probably to take care of him.’
Randall’s easy personality helped make his relationship with Bullock such a success, as she revealed in a TV interview when she gave a rare glimpse of their life together. She praised Randall for taking on both of her adopted children.
‘I had my son Louis first. Then when I met Randall, we hadn’t been together that long and I said, ‘Remember that NDA (non-disclosure agreement) you signed when you photographed my son? You know that still holds… because I’m bringing home a child when I come back from Toronto.’
She said Randall had been ‘happy and scared’ after she told him she was adopting daughter Laila. He is ‘very patient, a saint’, she said.
‘I found the love of my life. We share two beautiful children – three children,’ she added, referring to Randall’s daughter. ‘It’s the best thing ever.’
I found the love of my life …it’s the best thing ever
Though Bullock was reluctant to marry again, it was reported that the couple exchanged personal vows at a non-binding celebration in the Bahamas in 2017.
‘I don’t need a paper to be a devoted partner or a devoted mother,’ Bullock said. ‘I don’t need to be told to be ever-present in the hardest of times or to weather the storm with a good man.’
Her mentor Donald Biehn told me: ‘She was very articulate about not marrying Randall and was honest about that because she’s an honourable person, but clearly she did everything she could to help him through a terrible illness.’
With an estimated fortune of near £200million accrued by asking for a share of box office profits rather than a one-off fee, Bullock was able to put her full resources into helping her ailing love.
As the disease progressed, he found it calming to live in her beachside Malibu home, where a team of doctors and nurses provided round-the-clock care.
He was also looked after at Bullock’s home in Beverly Hills in a suite of rooms at the back of the property. During Covid, medics were tested up to three times a week as they went in and out.
The bad news was contained in a tight circle. One of Bullock’s biggest concerns was the effect the illness would have on her children. The couple’s relationship was also put under strain – but Bullock never faltered in her care.
Randall died on August 5 and is believed to have been cremated in a ceremony in California attended only by close family and friends.
Bullock, who has not said anything in public about her partner’s death, is now left to support her beloved children.
One hopes it will comfort her that she did the best she could for Randall – away from the spotlight.