Halle Berry hurts all the time. There was a time when she broke her arm on the set of the 2003 horror movie Gothika. Or when she almost suffocated on a fig in the role of a Bond girl die Another Day. Cat woman? Hit the head with a lamp. The calling? A face plant on a sidewalk. All not very good films, but all blessed with Berry’s full body involvement on set, even if it shakes or hurts them. But that’s also the joy of seeing an actor like Halle Berry. The work doesn’t always require it, but it will make a big difference.
I kept thinking of Berry’s devotion to her craft when I saw her new film Bruised. Stream on Netflix now, Bruised marks Berry’s directorial debut and her first real star car in years. She plays a former mixed martial arts fighter with an abusive friend and a young son she once abandoned. Yours is a story of gradual triumph. We meet her dejected and battle-weary and follow her as she falls in love, connects with an adorable child and rises from the ashes like a phoenix. It’s a movie and a character that naturally indulges in clichés, but Berry pulls into it. She trades with her teeth and delivers a performance of such cruel power that she rightly deserves Oscar buzz. And when you read that she broke two ribs on set and still got through the rest of the shoot … well, of course she did.
Berry has spent much of her career fighting. She rose to fame at a time when Hollywood’s only black leading lady was Whoopi Goldberg, and it was only through sheer willpower that she became a superstar. It’s easy to forget the climate in which berry was born. Her early interviews are full of horror stories about racism in the industry – as it was turned down for the film in 1996 Broken arrow because her character would have been a park attendant and a studio manager believed that there were no black park attendants; how she was not allowed to audition for Indecent Proposal or The silence of the Lambs Because the casting of a black woman would have apparently “changed what the film was about”.
Meanwhile, Berry was open about the realities of the industry and how her career path would differ from that of her white counterparts. Yes, she turned down the role in speed that made Sandra Bullock a star. But Berry also knew that Bullock got everything afterwards speed – the star vehicles, the magazine profiles, the power – it would not have happened to her. “If I drove this bus, it wouldn’t be my reality, and that’s a fact,” she said Movieline-Magazin 1995. “As a black woman, I know better. My fight is very different. “
This often seems to be forgotten when we talk about berry. As her career rose – becoming the first black woman to win the Oscar for best actress Monsterball; Storm in play X-Men – She was often ridiculed for her career choice. She’d star in lewd thrillers like Total stranger and GothikaHer work is considered to be somehow under an actor of her stature. Cat woman was a disaster. She often appeared on lists of actors who were allegedly “cursed” by their Oscar wins.
However, Hollywood completely misunderstands to imagine that Berry could only choose from the best parts. Berry’s acceptance speech at the Oscars 2002 is notorious, the actor thanks her supporters breathlessly with tears. But when you really listen to her words, it’s heartbreaking. She speaks of her victory as particularly significant that a ceiling has been broken for “every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance”. Berry is still the only black woman to ever win this award.
“I thought, ‘Oh, all of these great scripts are going to get in my way; these great directors are going to knock on my door – it didn’t happen, ”she told Variety this year. “Actually, it has become a little more difficult.”
Even so, Berry never became complacent. She remains one of the most charismatic actresses to see on screen, even if the material rarely matches what she brings to it. The calling – in which she plays a 911 operator rescuing a abducted Abigail Breslin – is compelling because her hectic performance makes her compelling. Armed with a pack of dogs who tear men to pieces at her command, she is a prolific assassin in an uproar John Wick 3. Even in Cat womanWhen asked to sneak around seductively, sleep on a shelf and fight a woman who whips nasty face cream, Berry does it, always fighting to sell the slightly ridiculous. No one has licked milk from a bowl before or after with such unbridled conviction.
Then there is Bruised. Berry is so good at it because it’s effectively her story. Not the MMA fights, of course, nor their melodramatic detours, but that feeling of underdog scrum to have to fight for every little victory that has always determined their career. She seemed to realize early on that this was not only advisable but essential.
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In 1999, Berry received some of her strongest reviews for the HBO film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, about one of the first black movie stars in Hollywood, who was also the first to receive an Oscar nomination for best actress. Dandridge’s story was ultimately tragic. Facing the worst segregation in America, she was a superstar, struggled for work, and died of a drug overdose at the age of 42. The role seemed to change Berry’s entire attitude.
“She couldn’t put a toe in a pool, use the same toilets, or eat in the same restaurants as the people she worked with,” said Berry Die New York Times 2002. “I don’t know what that does to a person’s soul. To live their life for three months I swore not to let the industry chew me up and spit me out. It’s my responsibility to force them to know what to do with me because I think that’s what killed them in the end. “
Fast forward almost 20 years and Berry is still here, still forcing us all to pay attention.
“Bruised” is now being streamed on Netflix.