Feature by: Jack Foley
HALLE Berry has barely stopped to catch her breath since winning
the best actress Oscar, for her performance in Monster's
Ball - an accolade which made her the first African-American
female recipient of the award, as well as the most successful
African-American star on the planet.
Since then, she has been a Bond girl, alongside Pierce Brosnan,
in Die Another Day, reprised
her role as Storm in the X-Men franchise,
and now finds herself tackling the horror genre for the first
time, in Gothika.
Yet as keen as she is to diversify, while being aware of the
responsibility of her position, she is determined not to allow
the pressure get to her.
"I don't like to say that I feel it as a pressure, but I
do think that it's something that I take very seriously,"
she explained, at a recent London press conference, held at the
"I do know that they are watching and that other people
of colour look at me and derive some sense of hope, or it inspires
them to achieve their goals and dreams.
"That's why, therefore, I take it very seriously, but I
don't get so caught up with it that it becomes a pressure. I ultimately
know that I'm only one human being, that I'm making one tiny contribution,
and nothing really more than that."
Hence, she enjoys the challenge of making films like Gothika,
even if the roles can be physically demanding.
She describes Gothika as a suspense/horror/thriller, which offered
her the chance to work with the likes of Robert Downey Jnr, Penelope
Cruz and French actor-turned-director, Mathieu Kassovitz.
It is a supernatural tale about a psychiatrist who suddenly finds
herself accused of her husband's murder, and institutionalised
in the same place she is working.
For Berry, the presence of Kassovitz offered the chance to bring
something new to the genre.
"Mathieu was someone who was really hot off the movies that
he'd done recently, and he had sort of a European feel, and Joel
[Silver, the producer] felt he would bring some value to this
old American movie, which I think we'd seen a hundred times before."
The fact that he was also an acclaimed actor in his own right
helped, during the filming process.
"Right away, what I realised is that he had a short-hand
language, and an easy way to talk to actors, because he is one
"He'd understand, sometimes, the position that we're in,
trying to understand what the director is trying to get out of
us. He knows speak in a way that we understand it, which comes
from his experiences as an actor."
Yet filming wasn't without its difficulties, as Berry broke her
arm on the set, requiring an eight-week break in filming.
So how did this happen, enquired one journalist?
"Robert Downey just twisted my arm the wrong way and it
just broke," she explained, to everyone's horror.
"Bit it was an accident, just one of those freak things
that happen on a movie.
"We stopped filming for eight weeks while I had full-blown
cast, and then after that my full arm cast was reduced to a very
small, very thin cast from my wrist to my elbow, and I finished
a month of shooting with that little cast on."
Berry is no stranger to injuries on set, however, having become
injured on the Bond shoot, as well as having a light fall on her
head on the set of her next project, Catwoman.
But she dismisses any notion of being accident-prone.
"I think the media has built it up to be something they
can have a little fun with," she observed, feistily.
"I give 100 per cent and I love physical roles. But when
you give 100 per cent for physical roles, you're bound to get
some bangs, that's sort of par for the course."
It is this down to earth attitude that has helped to earn Berry
so much respect among her peers.
She is completely candid with journalists, even though questions
about her personal life were strictly off-limits.
Those that did delve deeper, however, did get some intriguing
She does believe in ghosts, for example, claiming to have had
an experience on the set of the Dorothy Dandridge television movie.
"The crew and the people around me, knew that her spirit,
or some spirit, was around us, or around me.
"Nothing really outlandish happened, but it was just a feeling.
Strange things would happen, strange occurrences would happen
that couldn't really be explained in any other way," she
explained, before adding:
"But you know, the people who believe in ghosts are only
the ones who've had an experience. I think by our nature, we're
very sceptical, and unless we've seen it, we don't believe it."
Likewise, Berry admitted to feeling a little creepy on the set
"It was a little creepy to be in those dark, dungeonous
places. It was always very cold and there was just some element
in the air that made us all feel like sometimes we weren't alone.
That sort of added to the spookiness of the film-making."
Next up for Berry, though, is Cat-Woman, a Summer blockbuster,
which has already courted controversy among fans of the comic
Yet, once more, Berry is oblivious about the pressure, saying
that it's part and parcel of trying new things.
When asked about the comments that had been made about the look
of the film, in particular, she merely retorted: "I love
the look of the film. I think it's very modern, it's edgy, it's
very much reflective of the 21st Century, who women are today.
"I think we are constantly evolving.
As far as the negativity, there is always negativity; you can't
please everybody, and I think I have learned to accept that and
get on with it.
"But I also remember that there was a lot of negativity
around X-Men on the Internet, with the comic book afficionados.
Nothing we did on that movie made them happy, initially. At the
time, all that was said about it was bad. Yet when we came to
release it, they loved it.
"So I think we're all taking it with a little pinch of salt.
We tried to stay true to what our story was and try and make it
different from the ones in the past. If we were to make it the
same, there would be no point in making a new one."
With that in mind, it's hard not to disagree with her, or to
wish her every success...