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Gothika - There was just some element in the air that made us all feel like sometimes we weren't alone



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 Dorchester Hotel.

"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 himself.

"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 insights.

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 of Gothika.

"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 books.

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...

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