Halle Berry

Halle Berry was born on 14 August 1966 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. When she was 17 years old she won the Miss Teen All-American Pageant, representing the state of Ohio and a year later she was the first runner-up in the Miss USA Pageant. Shortly afterwards she became a model, which led to her her first weekly TV series, Living Dolls (1989). She received her big screen breakthrough playing a crack addict in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991). The following year, she was cast as Eddie Murphy's love interest in Boomerang (1992). Roles in Swordfish and Monster's Ball (for which she won an Academy Award) in 2000 ensured her a place on Hollywood's A-list. She has also appeared in the James Bond movie Die Another Day (2002), Catwoman (2004) and three X-Men movies.
We caught up with Berry as X-Men: The Last Stand was due to open in UK cinemas...

Sci-Fi-Online: What is Storm's role in this film and how much character development is there this time?

Halle Berry: I do have a more prominent role, but it would be an exaggeration to say the film centres around Storm. It is still X-Men and there is an ensemble cast.

There are a lot of new characters who we introduce as well. I just think that the screen time Storm has this time is really more meaningful, because she has a much more definitive point of view. She has a voice now and you really understand who she is a little bit better.

When she spoke before, it was a little ambiguous and vague; she never really had anything insightful to say about who she was. This time, she doesn't say a lot, but you understand who she is and where she is coming from.

SFO: So who is she - what kind of woman is Storm?

HB: I think Storm is a really strong woman who has great moral and ethical fibre. She is a warrior, in the sense that she will fight for what she believes in. She will say exactly what she thinks, even if it does not represent the majority view. I think she is that kind of lady.

In this movie she gets to express her voice, she actually goes toe to toe with Wolverine and I think that is pretty impressive for Storm, because in the past X-Men films, she hasn't challenged anybody. This time there is a much more interesting dynamic between them and she is more assertive.

SFO: Can you say anything more about that dynamic?

HB: In one scene she challenges Wolverine's beliefs and asks him to: "Step up to the plate or step off". She will not accept any of his indecisiveness and she tells him that he has to make a choice. She is almost saying: "Make a choice, I don't even care what it is as long as you make one, because I need to know which side you are on".

SFO: Were there any challenges for you in this film?

HB: I never thought that keeping my lunch down would be an issue, or anything I would have to worry about. But I felt very sick some days, because I had to do a lot of spinning and I came to realise that I have a very weak stomach.

SFO: What was it like working with Brett Ratner, the director?

HB: It was really good, he is like a five year-old, he is a lot of fun and I welcomed his energy and sense of wonder about X-Men.

He had never done it before, so he wasn't jaded, it was not 'old hat' for him, it was all brand new and you sense that. You will see a lot of his excitement that comes over in the movie that stems from his passion and fresh approach.

SFO: Did you have to do anything special to prepare for the film physically; did you do an intense workout regime?

HB: I did not have to do anything special for this film. I am usually in pretty good physical health and good shape. I have to be because of my diabetes. So I work out because it is good for optimum health, it is part of my lifestyle and general routine on a daily basis. I did spend a little bit of time with the stunt co-ordinator doing some wire work because I had to fly and spin in the movie but there was no big training regime, I just put the suit on.

SFO: What do you do in general to stay fit?

HB: I do some sort of cardio four or five times a week whether it be running or biking or rowing or stairs. Sometimes in New York, where I am now, it is a lot of walking. I do weight training, but not heavy weights. It is never my goal to bulk up. I just want to stay healthy and trim and fit, so that I am able to be agile as I get older.

SFO: What is it like being platinum blonde and wearing the white wig for Storm?

HB: It is not even platinum blonde or white, her hair is grey this time, so it was a little daunting to put on a head full of grey hair. I thought: "Am I really going to make a movie looking like this?" I thought: "Great!"

But after a couple of weeks, it became normal to me and I actually started to like it. So I thought: "OK as I get older I have nothing to worry about, I will be fine with a head full of grey hair".

SFO: What do you look for in films; you have never been afraid of looking unattractive or less glamorous?

HB: I am really comfortable with myself and the way I look. I started my career playing a crack addict in Jungle Fever and got the beauty thing off the table and I love that. I love roles that allow me to do that and I know that as I get older, I will continue to choose roles that are age appropriate and I have no problem with not being an ingénue. I have no problem ageing and acting in front of the world.

That is a challenge that I am looking forward to in fact. I want to continue to work and expose that part of myself, I am not afraid of my looks changing on and off screen at all.

SFO: Why do you think there is such massive excitement about X-Men across the world?

HB: Everybody can relate to the subject matter. Everybody has felt like an outcast and always will on some level I think. Whether you are black or white or pink, you can relate to what that is and it is seductive. Everybody can relate to being unfairly judged, especially being judged by the things that are totally out of their control.

For me, as a woman and a woman of colour, the whole core of my being can understand what that is like and I can relate to it, so I think it has brought me closer to everyday people and I need that. It has been wonderful for me.

SFO: How exciting has it been for you doing the X-Men films and this one in particular?

HB: The X-Men films have been a big part of my career for the past decade. They have been important films to be a part of, because they are so beloved by so many people, young and old.

And the comic book has something really profound to say. It is very cerebral for a comic book and I love being a part of something that so many people relate to.

SFO: As an Oscar winner for Monster's Ball and as one of the world's most respected actresses, is it still easy for you to relate to people?

HB: Well you know what? Everyday I wake up with this brown skin - I don't care how much money I have, I don't care how many movies I do, I don't care how many awards I have on my shelf, every day I am still aware that I am a woman of colour in this country [USA], and there is still certain discrimination that goes along with that and that does not change. No amount of money or awards changes that.

What changes discrimination is the consciousness of people, I do see that gradually changing, but are we there? I do not think that we live in a colour-blind society, where racism is null and void. That is pretty absurd, but I believe that it is possible that things are moving in that direction and I believe that one day, colour and race won't matter, I hope I am here to see it but it hasn't happened yet.

SFO: Do you feel optimistic?

HB: I do. I think things are changing and I think there have been many bridges that have closed the gap. That is partly happening with pop culture today, when you see little white kids walking down the street 'bee bopping' to black ethnic music. That says to me: "Wow something is changing". When you see Tiger Woods playing golf, dominating a sport that is basically white and male driven, I say: "Wow". I think one day we will all just be people trying to figure out the whole experience of life, because that is what we are here to do.

SFO: What are your criteria for choosing roles these days and do you feel a responsibility to take on inspiring films as well as simply entertaining movies?

HB: I do feel a responsibility on a larger scale, but I am also very aware of the responsibility that I have to myself.

I think that as an actor, and when we think about creating art, we have to remember that we are not curing cancer here, we are just entertaining. How insignificant is that in the scheme of life?

But there is a social responsibility that I feel at times, when I have the opportunity to put an important subject at the forefront, so that people will think about it, something that could influence pop culture.

I love to do that but I want to be mindful as well that it is important to satisfy myself and do things that I find personally challenging or things that that will be fun for me, and not carry the weight of the world on my shoulders with every choice that I make.

SFO: How passionate and enjoyable is acting for you at this point in your career?

HB: I love it. I was just talking to James Foley, the director of Perfect Stranger, the film I am working on now. I said: "How lucky are we just to go to a job that feels like child's play? We just make believe and we get to walk on the set and pretend we are people we are not".

We don't sit at a desk, we're not confined, we go to great locations, meet interesting people and get to do things that we would never do otherwise, I feel really grateful.

SFO: Do you have a philosophy or approach to work?

HB: I do know that what I love about my job is that each time I make a film I get to take a new risk and a new challenge and stretch myself as an artist. I grow with each experience. Whether the role is outwardly positive or negative, it is all positive for me because I become better at my job. That is the way I live my life.

In my personal life I continue to grow and take chances - sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you just have to keep going. And that is how I approach my career. I do what I believe in. I love it and I do think this is what I am meant to be doing with my life.

SFO: What do you mean by that, is this your destiny, your purpose in life?

HB: Yes I really do feel that I am meant be doing this and that everyone is meant to be doing something. We all have choices, but it is fate, because I don't know why I would be acting otherwise.

As a child I never dreamed of doing this, but somehow I was led to do this path and career.

SFO: What did you dream of as a little girl if it wasn't acting?

HB: I wanted to be a princess, and wear a crown and be a member of the royal family.

Then when I got past five years old, I wanted to be a doctor, because my mother was a nurse and I was interested in medicine. She worked on a psychiatric ward, so then I got interested in that and wanted to be a psychologist.

Later, as I got into my teenage years, I realised that I had a knack for writing and I thought I would like to be a journalist. I loved telling stories. So none of those things I dreamed of came to fruition.

SFO: You can get to live every one of those on screen though as an actress?

HB: Yes that is true and anytime I walk down the red carpet to an awards show I feel like a princess, I feel: "Wow". It is only for about five hours, but I guess that is what a princess would feel like.

I do experience a lot of different kinds of lives. I never thought I would be a crack head and I have been able to play that. I get to try it all out.

SFO: In the broadest sense, who or what do you think led you to acting?

HB: Whatever that higher being is. It is different for everybody.

I think I have always been aware of some higher power and I have been connected to it. There has always been that little voice, that intuition inside of me. I think that if you listen to that inner voice, you will end up where you are supposed to be and you will fulfil your destiny.

So I am trying really hard and getting a lot better at listening and following that path, I am learning to trust it.

SFO: How specifically do you do that on a day-to-day basis?

HB: I meditate. But it is hard to do it regularly, because with my lifestyle I haven't got a lot of time. But I love to catch the wave, no matter where it ends.

Things just pop into my head out of nowhere sometimes and that voice guides me and tells me what to do. I haven't always been good at that but I am getting much, much better.

SFO: Did things change for you in your career as a result of winning the Oscar?

HB: Yes and no. More people around the world knew who I was but it did not mean that the struggle stopped, to get good work. This is a very competitive industry and it always has been and will be, I don't care how many awards and accolades you have. You have to work very hard and have thick skin and be able to take risks, take chances. None of that has changed.

SFO: Is it easier for women now in film, in Hollywood?

HB: I think it is easier because we as women have different attitudes nowadays. We have decided it is going to be easier and we've decided to create some of our own projects and I think that makes it easier.

There was a time when women bought into the idea that it was hard and that after the age of 40 there would be no work. But if you buy into that, then that is exactly what you are going to manifest. I think women are changing their thinking and approach.

SFO: What are your hopes and dreams?

HB: I want to keep working and I want to have a family, one way or another I would love to have children, that will happen I am sure of it. There has to be more to life than just working.

A big dream of mine is to be able to take care of my mother, who worked so hard to take care of me. She was a single parent and one of my biggest joys right now is that I am moving her out to LA from Cleveland to be closer to me. She has a house that she loves and I just want to be able to give her whatever her heart desires for the rest of her life. That is a very big dream for me. She is not a person who wants a lot, so it is not that challenging.

SFO: She must be so proud of you?

HB: I think she is, I don't think she ever thought I would end up doing this with my life and she tells me often that what I do is great.

But I think she is more happy that I haven't changed a lot over the years, that I am still me and that we have time together and I care about her. We are the same as we always were and I think that is what makes her most happy and proud, more than the movies, if you want to know the truth.

SFO: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to Emma Carter at New Media Maze

X-Men: The Last Stand is released in UK cinemas from 25 May 2006.

Click here to view the trailer

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