“I’m one who chooses roles based on what I am most needing and wanting to express in my real life somehow,” said Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry while in New York City promoting her new film Things We Lost in the Fire. “I don’t purposely do that, but halfway through making a movie I go, ‘Oh, now I get why I am doing this!’”
I’m not sure what exact revelations Berry has had on movie sets since winning the Best Actress Oscar for her role in 2001’s Monster’s Ball, but I’m sure they haven’t been too enlightening. With critical duds like Gothika, Catwoman, and Perfect Stranger and just-satisfactory roles as a Bond Girl and a climate-controlling mutant, Berry’s filmography over the last six years hasn’t been one to flaunt.
“My life quickly went back to normal [after winning the Oscar],” Berry, 41, said. “[Awards] are great that night and you get a pat on the back and then you go back to being an actor making a living. I’ve learned not to take the highs and lows too personally and just operate in that middle ground.”
Still, Berry is far from your average actress. Along with making every sexiest-celebrities list in every glossy magazine known to man in the last few years, Berry has also been the face of Revlon and Versace, received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this past April, earned an estimated $16 million in 2005 and 2006, and recently announced that she is pregnant with her first child.
Now, Berry can say she is back on track to earn her second Oscar nomination for her intimate role in Things We Lost in the Fire. In the film, Berry plays Audrey Burke, a mother whose life is upturned when her husband, Steven (played by David Duchovny), is murdered. Through his death, Audrey connects with one of Steven’s best friends, Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro), a former lawyer turned heroine addict who she never accepted as part of her husband’s life.
“My manager gave me [the script] and I thought, ‘Wow! I’ve got to … do this movie,’” Berry said. “The [studio’s] response was, ‘Well, we don’t know. We don’t know about her. Once we get a director in place, then maybe we’ll know something more.’”
Because the role wasn’t written for a black actress — an issue she says she has faced throughout her career — Berry assumed her race might be the reason the studio was hesitant. It wasn’t until she met with director Susanne Bier (After the Wedding) that she got the opportunity to ask.
“When I walked in my first question to her was, ‘Do you care that I’m black … because I think that might be my problem here,’” Berry said, “[Bier] said, ‘To hell with what color you are. It’s not relevant.’ She said, ‘Just tell me why you like … Audrey. Let’s start there.’”
Although Berry admits she has never lost a loved one like her character, she delved into the role by researching the stages of grief and doing a little investigative reporting with friends who had lost family members.
“I haven’t lived this woman’s story in any way, shape, or form but I have lived what many of us have lived, and that’s having to go through the valleys of life and coming through on the other side and realizing somehow that we are indelibly better,” Berry said. “Life is different, sure … but life can often be better.”
Berry will experience another life-changing event very soon. Her baby is due next spring, and she is anticipating a lot of positive transformation in her personal life and in her career.
“My life has already changed,” Berry said. “I know that … choices that I make will change. Hopefully, I will be more grounded and have more life to draw from. I think it will make me a richer, deeper human being and that will show up in my work.