Guessing what's going on behind closed doors is a fool's errand.
Sandra Bullock's longtime partner Bryan Randall, whom she has described as the love of her life, died Aug. 5 at 57 after a three-year battle with ALS, the debilitating neurogenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
"Bryan chose early to keep his journey with ALS private," his family told People in a statement, "and those of us who cared for him did our best to honor his request. We are immensely grateful to the tireless doctors who navigated the landscape of this illness with us and to the astounding nurses who became our roommates, often sacrificing their own families to be with ours."
For an Oscar-winning movie star, Bullock has kept a relatively tight lid on her private life, especially since she coupled up with Randall—not a movie star, and therefore navigating a different universe—roughly eight years ago.
"My life was already on the track," she said on Jada Pinkett Smith's Red Table Talk in 2021, "and here's this beautiful human being who doesn't want anything to do with my life, but [he was] the right human being to be there."
Who was Bryan Randall?
As Bullock herself pointed out, Randall was a regular guy (albeit "a saint," as she called him, "evolved on a level that is not human"), before it became apparent in 2016 that they were a couple. But the handsome photographer from Portland, Ore., had also done some modeling in the past, including for the pages of Vogue, so it wasn't as if he'd never spent long hours under hot lights or hadn't worked with very famous people.
"Who cares how much somebody makes for a living? In the end, we're all going to be old and wrinkled," Bullock cracked in a 1999 interview, talking about what was really important when it came to love and partnership. "You'd like to know that that person can make you laugh and think, you know, can really stimulate you and excite you when they're gone and you think about them. Somebody you can admire and be proud of and sit back and go, 'This is my man.' And whether or not he's a millionaire or he's a painter, a musician or somebody who just, you know, shucks clams, it's that respect level that we forget to look for."
How did Sandra Bullock and Bryan Randall meet?
The Lost City star hired Randall to photograph her son Louis' fifth birthday party in early 2015—and they hit it off.
A source told E! News in 2016 that Bullock was "the happiest she has ever been."
Her five-year marriage to West Coast Choppers founder Jesse James imploded in March 2010, 10 days after she won her Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side. She and James, already a father of three, had taken newborn Louis home from New Orleans together that January. But once they broke up, Bullock finalized the adoption paperwork as a single mom.
Bullock adopted daughter Laila, who was 3 at the time, in 2015—a process in the works when she met Randall.
"When I met him, we hadn't been together that long and I said, 'Remember that NDA you signed when you photographed my son?'" the star divulged on Red Table Talk. "You know that still holds…because I'm bringing home a child when I come back from Toronto."
Reader, he did not disclose. And he photographed Bullock, Laila and Louis for a "Meet My Little Girl!" cover of People that December.
"He's a patient photographer who was working with three subjects who hate the camera," she later told InStyle about their family photo shoot. Moreover, she had entrusted Randall with keeping her precious secret until she was ready to go public.
"I had to figure out how to hide the kids' faces because there was a bounty on our heads," Bullock explained. "When you adopt a child, there's a placement period, and if something goes sideways, they have the right to take the child away. It's a tenuous, strenuous six months...But it took the bounty off once we did those official photos. Everything's a learning experience."
Did Bryan Randall have kids?
In addition to becoming a father figure to Louis and Laila, Randall was also dad to a daughter from a previous relationship—and he kept that dynamic entirely private throughout his life.
Bullock didn't divulge much about their relationship, but when she did talk about Randall, she reliably sang his praises as a partner and father.
"He's super kind," she told InStyle in 2018. "For the kids he's sort of No. 1. and I'm No. 2. But I get it because he's more fun and has better treats."
While promoting her 2021 film Bird Box, in which she played a single mom trying to protect her children from terrifying supernatural happenings, Bullock said that, unlike her boyfriend, she would place herself squarely in the "neurotic" category when it came to raising kids.
She did not share Randall's "understanding of fearlessness" when it came to parenting, she told KTLA. Rather, "I'm afraid and I want to make sure that I do everything in my power to protect these two beautiful children that I've been blessed to raise."
On Red Table Talk, Bullock highlighted that she was "good at saying sorry and I'm good at listening."
But the kids know "I'm flawed, my partner's flawed," she said. "We're both flawed, but we show it."
The Miss Congeniality star shared that Laila got distressed once when she saw her mom and dad fighting, protesting that they weren't supposed to argue, even though they had obviously since made up.
"I said, 'You and Lou fight,'" Bullock recalled. "She goes, 'But we're not a couple!'"
Were Sandra Bullock and Bryan Randall married?
Bullock never expected a proposal from her longtime boyfriend, nor did she seem to want one.
"I am someone who went through the divorce process," she said on Red Table Talk. "I found the love of my life. We share two beautiful children—three children, his older daughter. It's the best thing ever. I don't wanna say, 'Do it like I do it,' but I don't need a paper to be a devoted partner and devoted mother. I don't need to be told to be ever-present in the hardest of times. I don't need to be told to weather a storm with a good man."
Bullock may have quipped that Randall's "whole life had been unraveled" when they fell in love. But then they built a whole new life together, no vows required.