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Audiences around the world enthusiastically embraced the 2000 hit comedy Miss Congeniality, starring Sandra Bullock as fashion-challenged FBI Agent Gracie Hart, who goes undercover as a contestant to investigate a plot against the Miss United States beauty pageant. Gracie not only learns how to walk in high heels for the first time in her life, but she saves the day in heroic style, disarms a bomb, places in the pageant and becomes an overnight media sensation and the FBI's most famous face. 

Bullock, who produced the original film and produces again on Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, and Marc Lawrence, a writer and executive producer on the first film and now writer and producer for the story's current chapter, regard their earnest if somewhat unpolished and accident-prone heroine with genuine affection. 

"The reason for a sequel,” says Bullock, whose portrayal of the irrepressible agent earned a Golden Globe nomination and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award, "is that Marc and I found ourselves on numerous occasions imagining what Gracie would have gone on to do after her big triumph at the pageant and how all the media attention would have affected her. We've talked about how the close friendships she formed at the pageant might change her life, or at least her perspective. There were so many scenarios. I wanted to finish the story we had begun.”

"The first movie was all about character,” adds Lawrence, noting that, "essentially, the charm and humor of the film were in the indelible characters – not only Gracie but her pageant buddy Cheryl, who comes from nowhere to win the crown and Stan, the classic emcee, and the way they all sparked off one another. I believe a lot of people would be as interested as we were in seeing how Gracie has grown. What is she up to now?” 

Bullock and Lawrence share an enviable creative rapport which began when screenwriter Lawrence met the high-wattage star of his 1999 romantic comedy Forces of Nature. They next worked together on Miss Congeniality and subsequently on the 2002 romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice, for which Lawrence also directed and Bullock produced. Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous marks their fourth collaboration. Typical of the vein of humor that keeps the two in sync, Lawrence, when recently asked about their relationship, quipped, "it's entirely based upon food. I bring it to the set and she eats it, because, regardless of whatever nutrition plan she's currently on, no matter how specific, she feels she's not violating it if she eats my food. And I always oblige. I think that's what she really likes about me.

"Actually,” he continues, "we have a shorthand with each other. I know what makes her laugh and most things she does make me laugh. She's an extraordinarily natural physical comedienne. You either give Sandy some physical business or she'll make it up on her own, and that provides a balance to the dialogue. Plus she has the gift of being absolutely credible, which gives me license to take the material further out. She's a great barometer of what's real and what isn't, and she'll tell you if it doesn't feel right. We're truly opposites in many ways. She's an incredibly optimistic, energetic and positive person and I'm, well…not.”

One thing the two agreed on was asking Emmy-nominated director John Pasquin to guide Gracie Hart's new adventure. Citing Pasquin's theatre background, as well as television credits that include some of the most acclaimed shows of a generation (Growing Pains, thirtysomething, L.A. Law, Roseanne, Home Improvement), Lawrence says, "he's sensitive to actors and motivation and the truth of a scene. You don't often find that in combination with someone who knows the camera so well and can give you a wonderful visual.”

Pasquin's attraction to the project was threefold. Foremost, he says, was "the opportunity to work with S

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