After debuting as a film director in the midst of the pandemic during the virtual edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (better known as TIFF), Halle Berry had even presented the film “Bruised” by videoconference. And finally, this November 24, Berry will release his debut film to the rest of the world through Netflix. In an interview with VANGUARDIA, Halle agreed to go through the most important moments of her life, from the first steps as an actress to the Oscar for “Monster Ball” and the inevitable comparisons with the present of her new career as a director.
-Can your directorial debut be compared to your first work as an actress? – “Acting in a way came like many things in my life, like that kind of universe that sometimes crosses us in our destiny. This is exactly what happened with my debut as a film director, just like when I started as an actress. I don’t always follow the path that I impose on myself, but I follow the path that sometimes presents itself to me. And it is something that has served me well in life. In this case the producers hadn’t even imagined me in the main role, as a mixed martial arts fighter. I had to convince them. And when it came time to look for a director, after talking to a friend I realized that I could direct her. The only difference is that this time they had to convince me. And they succeeded ”.
-What would you say was the film production that had the best ‘direction’ in your career? – “The truth is that all my performances are like my children. Each one of them left an impression on me, even those jobs that may have seemed a failure or those that were not, the ones that people often point out to me. I have to say that I always learned something valuable in every film studio I went through. With all the roles that I gave them life, I learned something, as with all the film directors I worked with. Each experience had great personal value. That is why it is so difficult to choose which one was more valuable than another. It’s like saying that son I love more. It is impossible. I love you all equally, each performance is part of my growth and my evolution as an artist and also as a woman. Everything is part of my life and in a way I would tell you that they were necessary steps to get to where I got today ”.
-Having entered show business because you were the first African American to participate in the Miss World beauty pageant, in a way did you have to show that you were much more than a pretty face at the time of working as an actress? – “Actually, when they called me to work with Spike Lee on ‘Jungle Fever,’ they originally wanted me to play the role of a beautiful wife. And I would have done anything for the honor of meeting and working with a director like Spike Lee. But when I read the script, I immediately wanted to play the role of the drug addict. It was the way to get away from the physical part that had defined me so much, to show that there is a different side to me. And luckily, Spike gave me the opportunity to do it, although I have to say that he did not see it right away … but eventually he realized that I could act, showing that drugs do not discriminate and affect everyone equally. It was a very good opportunity ”.
-And just as it has been difficult for Hispanics to find a place in Hollywood, do you realize the doors that you opened in your case for other African Americans? – “It’s something I felt when we filmed ‘Boomerang’ with Eddie Murphy. I felt like we were ahead of time. Back then, it didn’t seem to me that the world was ready to see a cinema like that, with African-American people like that. It was a good way to cross borders, being able to tell our story, presenting ourselves as we are. People had not yet known our truth and even film critics I think they did not understand our culture well enough to realize how relevant it was. “
-And the Oscar you won for Best Actress for ‘Monsters Ball’? – “I always liked characters who are socially broken, people who struggle to survive or who are not understood. They are the roles that I like the most. It probably has to do with my own experience in life. Every time I had to act in those kinds of roles, I felt a certain catharsis where it seemed to me that I was healing myself by sharing personal parts that are hidden in those roles. They are not always presented openly, but they are a great opportunity to dive in and work. And when that character of Leticia Musgrave came into my life, I understood exactly the pain of the character and the torture that I experienced in the cinema. It is something innate ”.
-Is it true that at the beginning, back then, the studio didn’t want you to be the main character either? – “It’s true. I had to fight a lot for that role. I was lucky because director Marc Forster fought for me and just like Spike Lee believed in me, thinking that you can’t define what someone who suffers looks like. How does someone like this look? I was very lucky to bring an Oscar-style character to life. “
-In a time when the United States today revives racism with the police, would it have had a different effect to premiere today ‘Monsters Ball’ where your African-American character falls in love with the white police officer who has to do with the death of your husband? – “No, I do not think so. It’s something I also said back then. It always seemed like a very important story to tell. He is a character with whom I very much identified. To be honest, I didn’t even see Billy Bob (Thornton) as the white savior. I saw two characters who needed love, like the air they needed to breathe, being the product of an African-American father and a white mother, in their world. And I understand what it means to love for the sake of loving. It didn’t matter where the love came from. More important was what they needed as human beings. It’s what I thought back then and it’s what I still think today. I never saw them as a racial issue, neither black nor white. The love they needed was much more important ”.
-Does the stereotype of love imposed by the cinema sometimes have very little to do with reality? – “As it is. And we don’t always know where we are going to find it. I always defended the idea of avoiding imposing limits on where we can find love. Love is love and we should not always dictate where or how we can find it. But we all need it, we all seek it. It is part of the human being. It is part of what makes us feel alive and helps us evolve ”.
-What does the love for the Oscar mean today for Halle Berry, knowing that you already have it? – “And … the awards are pretty funny. There are those who say that they are like a brand that gives credibility to our talent. But at the same time, it generates too many expectations about us. And sometimes that expectation is very difficult to manage because in reality, we do not know what performance can win awards. And I know I never looked for them either. But once you win an Oscar, there is no formula that ensures that you will win another or that you will get jobs that are worth another award. It is not something we can control. And the expectation is unfair because in a way it imposes that if you won once, you should keep winning, as if you could somehow control the first time you wanted to win it. “
-The bad side of the Oscar? – “There are too many questions from people who today judge what I do much more. And that’s when he noticed that I lost the freedom I had before winning the Oscar. That is my fight. But I insist: I try to maintain my identity and I keep trying to find characters that interest me, different characters that force me to grow. I do not want to reinterpret the same kind of characters, twice, I want to avoid the stereotype and it is not easy, because the available material is not always based on the choices that I want to make ”.
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