Halle Berry: As ‘a Black woman, I haven’t always had parts that I absolutely love’

The Duchess of Cambridge sits near the Duchess of Sussex as they attend the West

Halle Berry has directed a movie! Did you know that? She directed the indie drama Bruised, and she directed herself in the lead role. That role? A middle-aged “disgraced MMA fighter grasping for one last shot in the ring.” Halle covers the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly to promote the film, and this piece was good! I cracked up hearing that this film was originally conceived as a vehicle for Blake Lively, to be directed by Nick Cassavetes. Blake as an MMA fighter? Lord almighty. You can read the full interview here. Some highlights:

The original Bruised script: “They gave me the script and I loved the story, but it was written for a twentysomething Irish Catholic white woman. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I thought, is it possible that this could be reimagined for someone like me? Because I think I have a take on it that could actually work — making it about a middle-aged Black woman, someone fighting for a last chance rather than another chance. When you’re young we all get chances, they’re a dime a dozen. But when you’re at a certain stage in life it becomes something more impactful and meaningful, right? So about six months later when [Lively] decided in her own time that it wasn’t for her, I went to the producer, Basil Iwanyk, who I’d just done John Wick 3 with, and gave him my pitch. And he said, ‘Great, we love that idea. Now go find a director.’”

Her CV is full of films she took out of economic necessity rather than art: “It’s like, okay, that’s a film I can’t say I’m totally in love with, but this isn’t a hobby. It’s how I take care of my children. But I try to keep that sense of wonder and stay curious. Because being a Black woman, I haven’t always had parts that I absolutely love.’

Offers were not pouring in after she won an Oscar: “It was surprising. Because I thought they were going to just back up the truck and drop them off at my house, right? When you have a historic win like that, you think, ‘Oh, this is going to fundamentally change.’ It did fundamentally change me, but it didn’t change my place in the business overnight. I still had to go back to work. I still had to try to fight to make a way out of no way.”

She’s fine with the bad reviews of her ‘Catwoman’: “For me, it was one of the biggest paydays of my whole life, which, there’s nothing wrong with that…. I don’t want to feel like ‘Oh, I can only do award-worthy stuff.’ What is an award-worthy performance?”

She loves social media: “I just stopped talking. I thought, ‘I can’t keep allowing people to tell me the same story, the same version of who I am.’ I have evolved, I’ve moved on, I’m grown. Let me live! Social media has been great for that because I get to be who I am. And they get to meet me where I’m at, not in the past.”

She’s fine with the changes in how people watch movies: “With the pandemic I think we pushed ourselves probably 15 years ahead, because people want to watch things at home on their own time. They want to stop it and start it. So I think we have to start reimagining and rethinking how we’re evolving. People have said to me, ‘You made an independent movie. Why would you sell it to Netflix?’ Because I’m assured people will see it, and that’s the goal! That is ultimately the goal.”

Where her career is now: “It used to be when you were 40 your career was done, and I mean really done. Or you had to wait until you were old enough to play a grandma, and then you could have another bite at the apple, right? I mean, I couldn’t think that I’d be playing an MMA fighter at 54 years old. Yet I did, so it’s got to be changing. I’m proof of that.”

[From EW]

I respect that Halle prioritized making money throughout her career, as well she should! But she acts like she just had to sign up for any old garbage project to put food on the table and that’s not really the case. Go on and get paid! Make money because money is important and you know your worth as an actress and a woman. I also think it’s funny that she’s somewhat cautious about how she describes Blake Lively’s interest in the script – Halle really kept her eye on that, and waited for Blake to lose interest or realize that she should not play an MMA fighter. And Halle is right, the story works better for a woman who is older. Young people don’t have a “last chance” at anything, they get chances all the time.

93rd Oscars, Academy Awards

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, cover courtesy of EW.

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10 Responses to “Halle Berry: As ‘a Black woman, I haven’t always had parts that I absolutely love’”

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  1. questions says:

    I don’t think she’s been in a lot of bad projects, but she’s been in a lot of action movies which are probably perceived as “lesser” than what Meryl Streep does.

    Most actors probably have lofty goals for art, but then realize they need to pay the bills. What she’s saying reminds me of what Michelle Williams said about doing movies for money. You probably become a little pragmatic when you realize how everything works.

    I also think she made some movies better than what they originally were on paper (like that movie where she played a 911 operator).

  2. Noki says:

    I can bet the movie Kidnap was one of the movies solely for economic reasons,it was shockingly bad.

  3. lucy2 says:

    I think most actors, even the big name ones, have to take jobs to pay the bills, or something is written better than it turns out and they’re left with a subpar movie on their resume. But Halle’s right, she never did get the Oscar bump that many others have.

  4. You Know Me says:

    Oh Halle….. Bless.

  5. GrnieWnie says:

    I’m 40 years old, about to turn 41 actually, and off to my muay thai class tonight! You and me, Halle.

  6. SarahCS says:

    Nothing to do with Halle but I’ve always wondered how you act in and direct a film at the same time. I mean I get how technically it’s possible but it sounds like it would be very complicated to realise.

    • Lena says:

      That’s why a lot of actors just direct for their first time out. Then when they are more
      comfortable with the technical aspects they can leave it to the second unit to direct while they’re acting. But Halle’s done a lot of films so good for her for jumping in with both feet. I liked that she took a script written for a twenty something white girl and saw it for herself. That’s what you gotta do because no one’s writing for women leads at 40-60.

  7. Courtney B says:

    Ugh that red carpet hair is awful. But the EW she looks AMAZING. The hair, the makeup, the casual look. She really is gorgeous. And she’s a better actress than her previous jobs have sometimes allowed her to show. But even in crap movies she always has a real presence imo.

  8. Gigi says:

    The disbelief over the quality of the films vis-a-vis paycheck was justified in the very excerpt chosen. I explicitly remember the era when Halle crossed over from Black Hollywood to the mainstream and then won an Oscar. During this same moment, Nicole Kidman was being handed one prestige script after another, and even though she made a lot of flops, she was still breathlessly praised in the media as a superb actress. Meanwhile, Halle was treated with skepticism and her making those commercial films instead of prestigious films was used as proof of her being a mediocre actress. She never got a fair shot like her white counterparts, and she still doesn’t–she had to rework a film meant for Blake Lively? While Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, et al get chased down to take parts created just for them.

  9. SoSoShy says:

    This is odd: (from excerpts of originally printed article in EW)

    “I went to the producer, Basil Iwanyk, who I’d just done John Wick 3 with, and gave him my pitch. And he said, ‘Great, we love that idea. Now go find a director.’” “

    Umm, why is an AA winning actress responsible for finding a director for this film?

    I am not as savvy about the entertainment biz as others here, so I am asking in the best intended spirit and not attempting to be snarky.

    I honestly didn’t know that it’s the actor’s job to do that, is it?