Halle Berry – Things We Lost in the Fire

June 7, 2007 by  
Filed under Interviews

“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.

Benicio del Toro – Things We Lost in the Fire

June 7, 2007 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Benicio del Toro isn’t a stranger to playing complex characters. From his Academy Award-winning role as Mexican police officer Javier Rodríguez in “Traffic” to his Academy Award-nominated role as born-again ex-convict Jack Jordan in “21 Grams,” del Toro’s characters over the last few years have had a heartbreaking depth to them.

In his newest film “Things We Lost in the Fire” – which could possibly garner him his third Oscar nomination – del Toro plays Jerry Sunborne, a former lawyer turned heroine addict whose only friend in the world, Steven Burke (David Duchovny), is murdered during an altercation in a parking lot.

The tragedy thrusts Jerry into the life of Steven’s wife Audrey (Halle Berry), who never understood why her husband cared so much for a man who threw everything away for drugs.

Although del Toro had never seen any of director Susanne Bier’s films, which include “Brothers” and “After the Wedding,” he was quickly taken in by the script, which was written by first-time screenwriter Allan Loeb.

“I felt something when I read the script,” del Toro, 40, told me during press day at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

When he finally met with Susanna and saw her movies, del Toro said she was someone he definitely wanted to work with.

“I saw that the themes of the movie…were going to be treated serious,” del Toro said. “Then Halle Berry jumped in and got everything rolling.”

To portray a man battling a drug addiction, del Toro said he met with a doctor who was an expert in addiction and spoke to recovering addicts when he attended a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. He also read literature on the subject, including “Junkie” by William S. Burroughs, and incorporated real-life experiences he has had with friends who have had drug problems.

“I came to Susanna with a bunch of ingredients,” del Toro said. “You draw from life. That was my recipe for my research.”

Although many of the themes were serious in nature, Halle Berry said working with del Toro proved to be amusing since he was always making her laugh on set.

“When you have Benicio del Toro around, you cannot really get too heavy about anything because he has a wonderful way of finding the funny in every situation,” Berry said. “It was really nice to sit back and watch that. That added some lightness throughout the day.”

Even a tense scene between del Toro and Berry didn’t seem to phase the duo. In the scene, Jerry is supposed to lean in to kiss Audrey, a scenario that was not in the first draft of the screenplay.

“[The kiss] was not scripted,” del Toro said. “We were doing [the scene] without the kiss and there was something not working. Susanna was not too happy with how it was going. Then she came up and said, ‘I think you should try to kiss her’ and I said, ‘Don’t mind if I do.’”

Currently, del Toro is shooting two films – “The Argentine” and “Guerilla” –based on the life of revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Both easily seem like Oscar-baited roles, of course, but does winning awards really matter to the Puerto Rico-born star?

“It’s an honor to be part of that tradition and to be part of the books and to be recognized for what you do,” del Toro said. “But you don’t [act] to [win awards]. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t…kick and scream.”