INT: Halle Berry
only is she one of the most beautiful woman working today (at 40!),
top of talking a bit about where her life is heading (in terms of
being 40 and now wanting children), she also spilled the beans on
four of her upcoming projects THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (with
Benicio Del Toro), CLASS ACT, TULIA, and most interestingly, NAPPILY
EVER AFTER. In it, she's going to be shaving her head. That's right
completely bald. Let me repeat that so it sinks in... completely
bald. Well, if Natalie Portman was able to pull it off, I'm sure
You took journalism at school...
Very briefly, must I say.
What kind of journalism did you want to do? Anything like your character in 'Perfect Stranger'?
I wanted to do this hard-core stuff you guys do. [Laughs] Well, unfortunately because I didnt study it long enough, I hadnt really decided that yet. So I really dont know, but I knew that I was a good writer in high school and won awards, and I was the editor of my school newspaper. So I knew that I was a good writer and I wanted to somehow capitalize and sort of utilize a talent that I thought I had. How it would have manifested, I dont really know.
The producer and director were singing their praises about how into the character you were what made you so passionate about playing this role?
Well, you know, I love a character that gives me a chance to grow and do something different, and Row was so multifaceted. I've never played a character who played a character who played a character, and that gave me a chance as an artist to sort of stretch my limits and to challenge myself. When I read the movie and I got to the end, I thought, 'Wow, I dont know how Im going to pull this off [or] if I can, but Im going to go down trying,' because thats how impassioned I was about it.
There's a line in the movie, 'What is it with powerful women and shitty men?'
I wish I knew. The course of my life would be different if I knew the answer to that question.
Did you find that funny when you read it?
Hysterical, and I wish I had learned the answer to that before the age of 40.
No, life mightve been boring.
Yeah, okay. Life wouldve been a big bore.
Do you find yourself feeling a little wiser now? Still learning?
Always learning, because I think as long as were here, if were logged on at all to this experience, then were learning. But I do think I would say a magical thing happened when the big 40th birthday came. It was really magical in a way for me. I felt like a light kind of just went off and maybe because I felt like at 40, I had the right to be who I wanted to be and say what I wanted to say and not accept what I didnt want to accept, like maybe it was me that felt the shift, but I do think Ive gotten wiser and Ive learned lots of lessons.
Are you at the point where you dont care what people think?
I was getting there slowly by slowly when I turned 35. But at 40, I
really get it in a real way. It doesnt matter what they think. Do
people really care? Nobody goes home really pondering what
Perfect example you kissed the star yesterday.
Yeah. And then somebody told, reminding me, 'You know that crack heads and drug addicts...' Then I thought, 'Thanks, did you have to remind me?' But yeah, it was just a spontaneous thing. I felt so proud of it and I felt like thats what I wanted to do, so thats what I did.
Did getting the star sort of re-legitimize who you are as an actress?
Yeah. You know, it was yet again another profound moment in my career. After the Oscar, I wasnt so sure I would ever have another one. And I was surprised that I found myself standing up there on the verge of like tears again, because Im an emotional train wreck. And I found myself up there really moved and really feeling proud and knowing that, while it seemed like a simple star in the ground, but it represented history and that I was a part of it. And the fact that my star is like right in the entrance of the Kodak Theatre said to me, 'Okay, Ive got a piece of prime real estate here. It wasnt a bad day. Its a good day.'
So you have an Emmy, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, and a star. What is it thats left for you to do? Maybe a Grammy?
A Grammy! If I could win a Grammy, thatd be doing something. Because I cant hold a note.
Can you think of something you really want to do?
Yeah, theres lots of things. You know, I mean I want to be a mother, like that feels really important. Career is one thing and I think Ive gotten a lot out of this career and made the most of my opportunities but I am starting to feel like I need something more meaningful to wake me up in the morning, and its feeling very much like its family, its children.
Are you thinking about numbers? How many?
Oh God, Im just hoping for one. Im just hoping for one right now.
What kind of relationship did you have with director on the set?
A very you know, he is and you ask anybody and I would bet my life on this. You ask any actor that he has worked with and they all have loved him. They had to have. He is an actors director. He is one of these unique directors that actually has the vocabulary to speak to actors and thats a different language really because actors sometimes, you know, have to hear words from an organic place, not an intellectual places because sometimes, the choices we make as actor arent based in anything cerebral.
Theyre just human emotions that are unexplainable sometimes and James Foley knows how to speak to us in those terms and he supports us. I remember on the first day of shooting you know, everybodys a little tense. As actors, were all very insecure and we just want the director to like what weve been working on the night before for the first day. So Im with Giovanni and were in that Chemley scene at the restaurant and we do the first take, and after the first take every one of us is kind of looking like, 'Okay... was that okay? How was that?' And all we hear from another room, because hes in another room watching the monitor, we hear, [screaming] 'YES!' Were like, 'What the hell was that?' And its James Foley and he was back there screaming. And that was the tone that he set and when we did something that he loved. We got that and when we didnt, of course he didnt, but when we can get that from him and we all felt okay.
The director also said you were 100% comfortable with your beauty.
I think thats also comes with 40, you know, and just getting older. Ive become really comfortable with my sexuality and making no excuses for it anymore. Its part of being a woman; it's part of what empowers us when were smart enough to know how to use it. The character of Row certainly knew how to use it, and I think Ive been learning as Ive gotten older. Ive become comfortable with that side of who I am. In the beginning, I used to have to downplay it because I wanted to be taken so seriously as a thespian and as an artist and as an actor, so Id play crack heads and down trotting women and disguise myself, and I think as Ive gotten older, I become more comfortable with who I really am and all parts of me knowing that my physical self doesnt diminish me in any way or my talent.
There are some pretty intense close-ups in the film. Did you have any feelings about the camera being right there in your face?
Well, Im not an actor who knows where the camera ever is. Ive worked with actors who are always aware of not only where the camera is, but what lens is on the camera. Im sort of oblivious to it. I try to black it out. I never care if its on me, not on me, if its a close shot or a wide shot, I believe you have to do 100% your best every shot you know, every take. So no, I really wasnt aware. I probably shouldve been. Once seeing the movie, Ill probably think I shouldve like said something about that but I really dont I dont care.
At this point in your career, what validates the work for you? How do you know when youve nailed it or hit it?
I never really know when Ive nailed it or when Ive hit it. I think what validates it today is the fans. When people come up to me, I mean a lot of people now youre going to probably walk up out of this room right now when I say this. Im going to say it anyway. A lot of fans a lot of people liked Catwoman, and its validated. Youd be surprised how many people, especially young girls, came up and they really liked it and so thats the validation. I try to focus on the positive of things and so the validation is really from the fans because thats who we make movies for, for people and for fans and I think its our job to offer them a variety, you know and do different kinds of things.
But if you didnt have that validation from them, would you feel okay about the work?
Oh, yeah because I know every time for good or for bad, I give 100% of what I have to give in that moment and I make choices based on whats happening in my life at that moment, what Im most needing to do, sometimes for personal reasons, sometimes for the art of it. So knowing that I make decisions from the right place, I can live with that at night, no matter what the outcome of the project.
You have Class Act coming up. Is that with Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas (the producer of 'Perfect Stranger')?
Yes, were the producer of that, yeah.
There are a lot of movies about teachers. Can you talk about how this film will be different? What you're going to bring to the character?
Well see, I dont know yet. I havent even begun to delve into who that woman is right now. So Ill tell you about it on that junket because I really dont you know, its something thats not really close to me right now. Thatd probably not go for another year and a half.
Before that then, youve got?
Ive got a movie coming out in the fall called 'Things We Lost in the Fire' with Benicio Del Toro, directed by Susanne Bier, a Danish director.
Can you talk about Benicio?
Benicio was great. Hes somebody that I always wanted to work with and I remembering sitting at junkets and people saying, 'Who would you really love to work with?' And I always would say, 'Benicio Del Toro, Benicio Del Toro.' And so I finally got a chance to do that and he is one of my generation. Hes one of the greatest and I got to work and watch and learn, and to play somebody whos that good and that instinctually organic. It was really fun.
It's going to be a powerful film, isnt it?
Its very different from this movie on many levels. Its a little small movie that deals with love and loss, and its very different in the sense that you know, this is sort of designed to be a crowd pleaser a 'who dunnit.' You know, this is a slice of life movie a little movie that will probably take the festival route this year.
Do you prefer doing those types of movies?
I prefer that I get to go in-between the genres, you know, and I prefer that I get to do studio movies and then little movies. If I had to do one or the other, I think I would be probably bored and probably unhappy.
So now that you've worked with Benicio, who would you like to work with now?
I still want to work with Denzel Washington. Ive been saying that now for years and I think thats still a desire of mine. Somewhere in the back of my mind, Im hoping that one day the right script will come along and Denzel and I will get to do something.
With this movie being as intricate as it was, did you have to stick to the script at all times, or were you able to go off the page a bit?
We had to stick with it. I mean as you may have read in the press, Bruce likes to improv a little bit. So he did a little bit of that but for the most part, we kind of had to stick to the script. I mean everybody would come up with a line here or there. You know, just sometimes as an actor, you find that the way the writer wrote a line just doesnt come out of your mouth right. So we change it a lot, but we dont change the intention, but we sometimes change how it comes out of our mouths. Its very hard to write for people that you dont know and sometimes words just flow differently and so we had delivery always to change the little words, always keeping the intention of the line and of the scene the same.
What are the challenges for you to find the right projects while not repeating yourself?
Thats the key, not to repeat myself. And thats tough, because I dont know what the right scripts are. I just try to be instinctual about it and when I read a script, if I feel like its something new, if it scares me to death. I usually think, 'Okay, I havent done this. Maybe I should think about trying.' You know, I just try to always work in different genres, never to become you know bored or never to get pigeonholed in a box you know, never being limited to only playing one kind of character.
Is there character youre yearning to play?
Well, Id really like to be in a romantic comedy, and I do have one coming up called 'Nappily Ever After'. Im going to shave my hair, shave my head bald for this movie.
I cant wait. Im going to be greasehead bald. I cant wait.
When is that?
That could be at the end of the summer.
Youre producing it too, right?
I dont know why you havent done more comedies before, because you obviously have a sense of humor.
Have you written anything recently?
Ive written a couple of screenplays.
What are they about?
One is a comedy, because Ive been realizing that I need to write one for myself, because it may be the only way I get one, and I wrote that. One is a thriller, and the other one is only half done. That was like a little wacky movie about its just a character piece its really a short.
Who do you play in 'Nappily Ever After' exactly?
I play this woman Venus. The movie, its all about a woman the relationship that women have with their hair and how hair throughout history has defined us and how were in such bondage, you know, and everything is, 'If my hairs not right, then were not right.' So my character, at the beginning of the movie, something is done to her and her hair starts to fall out. So she decides one night after being drunk trying to deal with the fact that their hair is dragged up, and she decides to shave her hair completely bald.
And now she has to face, you know, the next morning with no hair and how her whole life and everybody around her is now different and behaves differently because she was this beautiful goddess with this long hair and now shes bald and how shes different now. And shes forced to look at what beauty really is and it comes from inside obviously, not from the outside. But its a hard lesson for us to get and this movie will sort of expose that and help us sort of come to terms and may be every time we hear thunder, we wont go running for cover.
So does she go and get wigs?
She tries lots of funny things to deal with it, put it that way.
Did you have a lot of input on your wardrobe in this movie?
Yes, but we did have an amazing costume designer, Renee Kalfus. But I needed the you know, on many movies for me, if I put on a certain piece of clothing then I feel like the character. You know, I remember in Monsters Ball when I had those flip-flops on, I was Leticia Musgrove. I had to have the flip-flops. And so theres always one or two things that hones it in for me and this movie, there was the clothes. Every character that I played within the one character had a piece of clothing that when I had it, I knew okay, now Im this character.
Did you keep them?
I did keep the clothes, yeah. I cant even wear them again but I have them.
Arent you about to shoot something with your 'Monsters Ball' co-star Billy Bob Thornton?
a movie called 'Tulia', about Tulia
You had a great chemistry with Bruce.
Well, its hard not to have chemistry with Bruce because hes a ladies man, but hes also a mans man. You know, men like him. He represents that, you know, good ol macho mans man, and women find him irresistibly sexy, and hes funny, hes charming, he knows how to say all the right things that just make you feel like youre the most important person on the planet. Like hes got all that down. He knows how to do all of that. So really, its fun to be around Bruce.
Was there a different relationship that you had with Bruce than Giovanni?
Probably because of the nature of the characters that we all played and our connection to each other. You know, my relationship with Bruce was about seducing him so our banter in-between scenes was always very seductive and silly and sexy and you know, we just tried to stay in that mode where Giovanni and I, because he was like my guy Friday, you know we had a more cerebral conversations all the time and we talked about the computers a lot and you know, just different.
Have you got any charities or causes that youre working with currently?
Yes, the Jenesse Centre. Thats my cause that I care most about and its a home that provides shelter for battered and abused women and children. And were in the process now of raising money to build what we call A Fake It Til You Make It center, where people in the community can go and get advice and get help, legal assistance and education and things that women need today to help empower themselves. So thats really important what Im doing now.
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