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Subject: Halle Berry


Author:
Interview
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Date Posted: 02/24/04 4:35:38pm


A woman whose combination of talent, tenacity, and beauty has made her one of Hollywood's busiest actors, Halle Berry has enjoyed a level of success that has come from years of hard work and her share of career pitfalls.




Berry's interest in show business came courtesy of her participation in a number of beauty pageants throughout her teens, including the 1986 Miss U.S.A. Pageant. A native of Cleveland, OH, where she was born to an African-American father and white mother on August 14, 1968, Berry was raised by her mother, a psychiatric nurse, following her parents' divorce. At the age of 17, she appeared in the spotlight for the first time as the winner of the Miss Teen All-American Pageant, and subsequently became a model. Berry won her first professional acting gig on the TV series Living Dolls, and then appeared on Knots Landing before winning her first big-screen role in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. It was on the set of the film that she first earned her reputation for her full commitment to acting, reportedly refusing to bathe for weeks in preparation for her portrayal of a crack addict.

Following her film debut, Berry was cast opposite Eddie Murphy in Boomerang (1992) as the comedian's love interest; not only did she hold her own against Murphy, but the same year she did acclaimed work in the title role of the Alex Haley miniseries Queen, playing a young woman struggling against the brutal conditions of slavery.

After a comedic turn as sultry secretary Sharon Stone in the 1994 live-action version of The Flintsones, Berry returned to more serious fare with her role in the adoption drama Losing Isaiah (1995). Starring opposite Jessica Lange as a former crack addict battling to win custody of her child, who as a baby was adopted by an affluent white couple, Berry earned a mixed reception from critics, some of whom noted that her scenes with Lange highlighted Berry's own shortcomings.

However, critical opinion of the actress' work was overwhelmingly favorable in 1998, when she starred as a street smart young woman who comes to the aid of a bumbling politician in Warren Beatty's Bullworth. The following year, Berry won even greater acclaim -- and an Emmy and Golden Globe -- for her turn as tragic screen siren Dorothy Dandridge in the made-for-cable Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Unfortunately, any acclaim Berry enjoyed was overshadowed by her widely publicized brush with the law in February of 2000, when she allegedly ran a red light, slammed into another car, and then left the scene of the accident. The actress, who suffered a gash to her forehead (the driver of the other car sustained a broken wrist), was booked in a misdemeanor court in early April of that year.

Fortunately for Berry, her subsequent onscreen work removed the spotlight from her legal troubles; that same year, she starred as Storm in Bryan Singer's hugely successful adaptation of The X-Men. Working alongside a cast that included Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, and Anna Paquin, Berry was hailed for her work as the first African-American comic book heroine on the screen. Acclaim was not quite as forthcoming for her work opposite John Travolta in Dominic Sena's cheesy thriller Swordfish, which touted itself as the first movie to feature Berry baring her breasts. Unfortunately, it didn't allow for equal exploitation of the talents that Berry possessed above her collarbone.

Berry again bared more than her character's inner turmoil in Monster's Ball (2001), a romantic drama directed by Marc Forster that starred the actress as a woman who becomes involved with a racist ex-cop (Billy Bob Thornton) who oversaw the prison execution of her husband (Sean Combs). Berry earned wide critical praise for her work in the film, as well as Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Actress. And though she may have lost out to Sissy Spacek in the Golden Globes, her night at the Oscars found Berry the favored performer as took home a statue for Best Actress. A momentous footnote in Academy Award history, Berry's win marked the first time an African American had been bestowed that particular honor. ~ Rebecca Flint, All Movie Guide

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