Plenty of Juice Left for this Berry
Halle Berry knows how to light up a room. An intoxicating presence, the 39-year old Oscar winner had no need to do another X-Men film and according to industry rumour, only agreed to do the third and final film in the comic book franchise as long her part increased. She laughs but concedes, "My complaining was never about, oh, I want to be on screen more, but just these movies take a big chunk out of our work year, seven, eight or nine months sometimes. So I thought if I am gonna put in the time, and then I just want a little more to do than hang around for nine months and do little or nothing. Berry insists that it had nothing to do with ego or wanting more screen time, but rather she wanted her X-Men character, Storm, "to have a point of view, and if she talks for five minutes then let it be five minutes about SOMETHING. Let her say something, let her fight more and let her be involved. So I was happy when I read this new script and when Brett came on he included Storm even more and I appreciated it." Berry had certain wish lists as to how Storm would evolve in what is likely this final chapter in the X-Men franchise, which has to do with an anti-mutant 'cure'. "I thought she should be outspoken and that it was time that Storm really wanted to stand up to Wolverine, that she somehow asserts her power and that you realise that she is as powerful as Wolverine, as Professor X, as anybody - that she is powerful in her own right, because in the comic book she is. She was an African princess, revered in, loved her country, and was very powerful in her country, so I thought: why all of a sudden would she get to America and get weak, Berry says, laughingly. "She's a strong person with a strong personality, I really wanted that to be a part of this and I wanted Storm to come out of her shell."
There don't seem to be too many parallels between an initially inward Storm and the brash, Hollywood star who doesn't seem to take herself seriously. A career defined as much by recent flops as Catwoman [which she refers to self-mockingly], Berry says she has no regrets since she's all about taking risks. "Here's the thing - you can't be careful about what you pick because what looks like on paper is going to be a great script has often turned out to be a disaster, so there's no way to know what's going to work or to pick the right thing. Also if you put that kind of pressure on yourself I don't think anybody would ever work because you never know for sure if this is going to be good." Berry says that her career has often been one of taking risks, citing her Oscar winning turn in Monster's Ball as a prime example. "That was a risk, and I thought with that sex scene, it could end my career and I remember thinking, oh, my God, if people don't get this, this could be like my Showgirls. But I believed in the project enough to take the risk," as she did with the critically maligned Catwoman. "I thought if this doesn't work this could be bad, but if it works it could be great and what it could do for women in film and women in the world is bigger than my fear of that risk. So I thought, risk it. What's the worst that can happen? If it doesn't do well I can put on my big girl panties, deal with it and move on." That is precisely what Berry did "and it hasn't stopped me. What energises me about my career is that factor of daring to take a risk that nobody thinks or expects you to do but you do it anyway, and the only way you win big is to risk big. You don't win big by mediocrity or taking safe bets, but by risking big, because when you risk big then that means you're doing something that's innovative, and that hasn't been done before."
Berry then adds laughingly that the risk continues with her next film. "In my next movie I have sex with myself and I don't think anybody's ever seen me do that," she says, referring in fact to Perfect Stranger, the James Foley-directed thriller in which she stars opposite Bruce Willis. "I play an investigative reporter, investigating the death of my friend that's murdered and Bruce Willis plays an owner of an ad agency. Giovanni Ribisi is also in it, who plays, for lack of a better word, my Guy Friday. In order to investigate this murder I have to go into the darkest part of the internet, in that world where nobody is who they say they are, into the world of chat rooms, Cybersex and what all goes on in that dark place where people love to go." Berry laughingly admits to having done "some research" on those dark places but hastens to add that the movie is also "an interesting psychological look at people and how we're all somebody really different than who we present. We all have that other side that's just for us. , so that is what this movie sort of explores and deals with. After all, everybody has secrets and there are some things that nobody knows about you but only you, right?"
As one of Hollywood's most glamorous and successful stars, there are few secrets left about the high profile actress, from car accidents to broken relationships, all of which are exposed in the world's frenzied tabloid media. Yet the actress says she has a thick skin and has finally chosen to ignore what is written about her and successfully balance a personal life with a perpetually thriving career. "I've been in the business a long time and so it just rolls off my back these days and that's a really empowered place to be. None of that stuff matters anymore and I can sit here and say that truly nobody knows Halle Berry, but Halle Berry really cares. It's all good fodder and people love to chitchat, and gossip, but do they really care?"
As for the big 40, Berry laughs that upcoming birthday off. "I'm not sad at all about turning 40." In fact, on the day, she says she will be on set working on her new movie, Things we Lost in the Fire. "I'll be on set with Benicio Del Toro which is more than I could hope for on my birthday", she says laughingly.
Still looking ravishing as she approaches that particular milestone, despite her Oscar, a production company, a thriving career and her continued Revlon career, Berry concedes that it is still a struggle for producers and casting people to go beyond her looks. "They envision me or they see me on Revlon and they sometimes think I can't play certain parts because they forget I'm an actor. Even Revlon, after all, is also a part that I play.
Yet Berry remains a role model and says that despite her success, it remains consistently important to give back what she has attained. "Not to get too spiritual, but I feel really lucky and blessed that I get to have this career, make a living at it and do something that just feels like play and silliness yet get to have a career. Therefore, I think it's important to give back and I know many people resist being a role model. I hear other actors say I'm not a role model, that your parents are your role model, but in a perfect world that would be great but that's just not reality. Kids look to people that they identify with, I've always taken that seriously, and I take it to heart the best I can and try to do things because I know they're watching. However, I try not to let that compromise my sense of being who I am at the same time. For example, I try to teach kids the best thing to do is to be authentic with who you are."
With Halle Berry, what you see is definitely, what you get!
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.