Halle Berry Interviewed – PERFECT STRANGER

     April 6, 2007

The other day I did roundtables for Perfect Stranger and got to talk with Halle Berry, Giovanni Ribisi, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas (Producer) and James Foley (Director). While I’m posting the transcripts for Giovanni and Halle, the other two can only be heard as audio interviews as I have way too much to transcribe and post over the next few days.

So if you’d like to hear Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas (Producer) or James Foley (Director) click on either name (the files are MP3’s). I will warn you though… both interviews contain MAJOR spoilers and if you don’t want to know the secrets of this film I would not listen until you have seen the movie. But if you have the time and want to listen to a crazy interview listen to James Foley. Seriously I have never heard someone give an interview like this. It has to be heard to be believed.

But enough of the other people, you clicked on this article to read about Halle.

In person Halle is every bit as gorgeous as she looks on screen. During the interview she mentioned how she had recently turned 40 and I couldn’t believe it. I swear scientists need to study her and analyse everything.

While the interview has all the usual stuff, the one highlight was her revealing that she’ll be shaving her head bald for an upcoming role. It was when someone asked if she has a character she’s yearning to play:

Well, I’d really like to be in a romantic comedy and I do have one coming up called Nappily Ever After that the women in the room would totally… I’m going to shave my hair, shave my head bald for this movie.

Seriously?

I can’t wait. I’m going to be greasehead bald. I play this woman Venus, who … the movie, it’s all about a woman … you know that relationship that women … guys, just bear with me for one second … the relationship that women have with their hair and how hair throughout history has defined us and how we’re in such bondage, you know and everything is if my hair’s not right then we’re not right. So my character, at the beginning of the movie, something is done to her and her hair starts to fall out and you know … and so she decides one night after being drunk trying to deal with the fact that their hair is dragged up, she’s drunk and she decides to shave her hair completely bald and now she has to face you know, the next morning with no hair and how her whole life and everybody around her is now different and behaves differently because she was this beautiful goddess with this long hair and now she’s bald and how she’s different now, and she’s forced to look at what beauty really is and it comes from inside obviously, not from the outside but it’s a hard lesson for us to get and this movie will sort of expose that and help us sort of come to terms and may be every time we hear thunder, we won’t go like running for cover.

I’m sure the paparazzi will be fighting to get this photograph.

Again the interview was done in roundtable form which explains the wide variety of questions. If you’re not familiar with the term roundtable, that’s when the studio gets anywhere between 4 and 15 journalists around a table taking turns asking questions. Obviously each person is writing a story and has an agenda and that explains why certain questions were asked. While I might be interested in the craft of acting…when you are at a table with US Weekly you know what they’re going to ask about…

If you’d like to listen to the audio of the interview – click here – it’s an MP3 and easily played on any portable player. Otherwise you can read it below.

And here is a link to the trailer in case you haven’t seen it and here is the studio provided synopsis:

Perfect Stranger asks the question: How far would you go to keep a secret? When investigative reporter Rowena Price (Halle Berry) learns that her friend’s murder might be connected to powerful ad executive Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), she goes undercover with the help of her associate, Miles Haley (Giovanni Ribisi). Posing as Katherine, a temp at Hill’s agency, and Veronica, a girl Hill flirts with online, Rowena surrounds her prey from all sides, only to discover that she isn’t the only one changing identities. The closer we get to learning the truth, the more we understand how far people will go to protect it.

Perfect Stranger opens on Friday the 13th

Question: Well, you actually took journalism at school and…

Halle Berry: Very briefly must I say.

Alright, did you, I mean what kind of journalist did you want to be? Did you want to be like your character? Did you want to do investigative work, or did you want to do this hard core junket reporting that we do.

I want to do this hard core stuff you guys do. Well, unfortunately because I didn’t study it long enough, I hadn’t really decided that yet. So I really don’t know, but I knew that I was a good writer in high school and won awards, and I was the editor of my school newspaper. So I knew that I was a good writer and I wanted to somehow capitalise and sort of utilise a talent that I thought I had. How it would have manifested, I don’t really know.

So why were you so passionate about playing this role, because your producer and director both said that you apparently were really in character so?

Well, you know, I love a character that gives me a chance to grow and do something different, and Row was so multifaceted, you know. I never played a character who played a character who played a character you know, and that gave me a chance as an artist to sort of stretch my limits and to challenge myself, and I was you know … when I read the movie and I got to the end, I thought wow, I don’t know how I’m going to pull this off but if I can but I’m going to go down trying because that’s how impassioned I was about it.

My favourite line in the movie or I guess one of the best lines in the movie is about the powerful… the words about powerful women and shitty men. Was that a line…

I wish I knew. The course of my life would be different if I knew the answer to that question.

Did you find that funny when you read that?

Hysterical, hysterical, hysterical and I wish I had learned the answer to that before the age of 40.

No, life might’ve been boring.

Yeah, okay. Life would’ve been a big bore.

Do you find yourself feeling a little wiser now? I mean are you still God, you’re learning or what’s … you know, where are you right now in terms of that kind of thing in life?

Always learning because I think as long as we’re here, if we’re logged on at all to this experience, then we’re learning. But I do think … I would say a magical thing happened when my … when the big 40th birthday came. It was really magical in a way for me. I felt like a light kind of just went off and may be because I felt like at 40, I had the right to you know say and be who I wanted to be and say what I wanted to say and not accept what I didn’t want to accept, like may be it was me that felt the shift, but I do think I’ve gotten wiser and I’ve learned lots of lessons.

What do you mean the light went on when you turned 40?

I felt more self-assured, more confident. I felt like half my life is probably over now and I felt like I had the right to really be authentically who I want to be and say what I want to say, and not accept what didn’t feel right and I don’t think I felt confident enough to do that before 40 really. Not across the board on all levels. I was doing it in certain areas but now, I can happily say I can do that across the board.

Are you at the point where you don’t care what people think?

Yeah… I was getting there slowly by slowly when I turned 35 but at 40, I really get it in a real way. It doesn’t matter what they think. Do people really care? Nobody goes home really pondering what Halle Berry did or said.

You kissed the star yesterday.

Yeah … it was and then somebody told … reminding me, do you know that crack heads and drug addicts and … then I thought thanks, did you have to remind me, you know. But yeah, it was just a spontaneous thing. I felt so proud of it and I felt like that’s what I wanted to do, so that’s what I did.

You have an Emmy, a Golden Globe, you have an Oscar, you have a star. What is it that’s left for you to do? What is it that you really want to do with the next half of your life now? Maybe a Grammy?

A Grammy! If I won a Grammy, that’d be doing something. Lucky, I can’t hold a note. If I could win a Grammy…

We can fix that in the studio, girl.

… that’ll tell me nothing.

Can you think of something you really want to do?

Yeah, there’s lots of things. You know, I mean I want to be a mother, like that feels really important. Career is one thing and I think I’ve gotten a lot out of this career and made the most of my opportunities but I am starting to feel like I need something more meaningful to wake me up in the morning, and it’s feeling very much like it’s family, it’s children, it’s … you know.

Are you thinking about numbers? How many?

Oh God, I’m just hoping for one. I’m just hoping for one right now.

What kind of relationship did you have with director on the set?

A very … you know, he is and you ask anybody and I would you know bet my life on this. You ask any actor that he has worked with and they all have loved him. They had to have. He is an actor’s director. He is one of these unique directors that actually has the vocabulary to speak to actors and that’s a different language really because actors sometimes, you know, have to hear words from an organic place, not an intellectual places because sometimes, the choices we make as actor don’t … aren’t based in anything cerebral. They’re just human emotions that are unexplainable sometimes and James Foley knows how to speak to us in those terms and he supports us. I remember on the first day of shooting … did you hear this story about how he … like on the first day of shooting, you know on the movie for the first time, you know everybody’s a little tense. As actors, we’re all very insecure and we just want the director to like what we’ve been working on the night before for the first day. So I’m with Giovanni and we’re in that Chemley scene at the restaurant and we do the first take, and after the first take everyone of us is kind of you know, looking like okay, was that okay? How was that? And all we hear from another room, because he’s in another room watching the monitor, we hear ah [screaming], yes. We’re like what the hell was that? And it’s James Foley and he was back and he’s like ah [screaming], and that was the tone that he set and when we did something that he loved, we got that and when we didn’t, of course he didn’t but when we can get that from him and we all felt like okay.

He also said that you were 100% comfortable with your beauty because there is … there’s one scene in this movie where you’re dressed incredibly and the camera does accentuate your physicality which is fine with me. But where’s that comfort zone come from and why do you … is it easy for you to still be comfortable with that side of you?

I think that’s also come with 40, you know and just getting older. I’ve become really comfortable with my sexuality and making no excuses for it anymore. It’s part of being a woman its part of what empowers us when we’re smart enough to know how to use it. The character of Row certainly knew how to use it, and I think I’ve been learning as I’ve gotten older. I’ve become comfortable with that side of who I am. In the beginning, I used to have to downplay it because I wanted to be taken so seriously as a thespian and as an artist and as an actor, so I’d play crack heads and down trotting women and disguise myself, and I think as I’ve gotten older, I become more comfortable with who I really am and all parts of me knowing that my physical self doesn’t diminish me in any way or my talent.

You have some really intense close-ups in this movie when you’re on the computer. Were you like plucking and waxing right before? It’s right there.

You tell me. Should I have been?

You looked very unplucked to me.

I’m sorry to disappoint you, I was not plucking and waxing moments before.

Did you have any feeling about the camera being right there in your face?

Well, I try … you know, I’m not an actor who knows where the camera ever is. I’ve worked with actors who are always aware of not only where the camera is but what lens is on the camera. I’m sort of oblivious to it. I try to black it out. I never care if it’s on me, not on me, if it’s a close shot or a wide shot, I believe you have to do 100% your best every shot … you know, every take. So no, I really wasn’t aware. I probably should’ve been. Once seeing the movie, I’ll probably think I should’ve like said something about that but I really don’t … I don’t care.

At this point in your career, what validates the work for you? What other people say is what you just feel instinctually? I mean do you know when you’ve nailed it and you’ve hit it?

I never really know when I’ve nailed it or when I’ve hit it. I think what validates it today is the fans. When people come up to me, I mean a lot of people … now you’re all going to probably walk up out of this room right now when I say this. I’m going to say it anyway. A lot of fans, a lot of people liked Catwoman and it’s validated… come on … be less questions I have to answer … Come on. But you’d be surprised how many people, especially young girls, came up and they really liked it and so that’s the validation. I try to focus on the positive of things and so the validation is really from the fans because that’s who we make movies for, for people and for fans and I think it’s our job to offer them a variety, you know and do different kinds of things and so …

But if you didn’t have that validation from them, would you feel okay about the work?

Oh, yeah because I know every time for good or for bad, I give 100% of what I have to give in that moment and I make choices based on what’s happening in my life at that moment, what I’m most needing to do, sometimes for personal reasons, sometimes for the art of it. So knowing that I make decisions from the right place, I can live with that at night, no matter what the outcome of the project.

You have some upcoming projects that sound very interesting.

Oh, yes.

Class Act for example, is that which Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas (The Producer) was very excited about?

Yes, we’re the producer of that, yeah.

There are a lot of movies about teachers. Can you talk about what you’re going to bring to this … to that woman that might be different from other women that you’ve played?

We’ll see, I don’t know yet. I haven’t even begun to delve into who that woman is right now. So I’ll tell you about it on that junket because I really don’t … you know, it’s something that’s not really close to me right now. That’d probably not go for another year and a half.

Not before that?

Probably. Mm?

Before that, then you’ve got?

I’ve got a movie coming out in the fall called Things We Lost in the Fire with Benicio Del Toro directed by Susanne Bier, a Danish director.

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Can you talk about Benicio?

Oh, I’m sorry. Well, Benicio was great. He’s somebody that I always wanted to work with and I remembering sitting at junkets and peoples saying who would you really love to work with? And I always would say Benicio Del Toro, Benicio Del Toro. And so I finally got a chance to do that and he is one of my generation. He’s one of the greatest and I got to work and watch and learn, and to play somebody who’s that good and that instinctually organic. It was really fun.

It’s a really powerful film that one, isn’t it? It sounds like a very …

It’s very different from this movie on many levels. It’s a little small movie that deals with love and loss, and it’s very different in the sense that you know, this is sort of designed to be a crowd pleaser, who dunnit. You know, this is a slice of life movie, a little movie that will probably take the festival route this year.

Do you prefer doing those types of movies?

I prefer that I get to go in-between the genres you know, and I prefer that I get to do studio movies and then little movies. That’s what I … if I had to do one or the other, I think I would be probably bored and probably unhappy.

What attracts people to secret love affairs?

I don’t know. I don’t have them. C’est la vie.

Do you wish you could?

Hell no.

The whole secret thing of the online flirting, the whole secret affair.

I have no idea. I haven’t done that either.

You’ve never really done anything online? You’ve never flirted online like that?

Have not done that.

So with who would you like to work now?

Ooh, ah, ah, I … you know, I would probably … I still want to work with Denzel Washington. I’ve been saying that now for years and I think that’s still a desire of mine. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m hoping that one day the right script will come along and Denzel and I will get to do something.

To follow-up a little on that, do you think it’s odd that you’ve not worked with a whole lot of African-American leading men in your films?

Hard to say.

Well, I mean you know, we were thinking about like since Boomerang, there hasn’t been that many.

Oh, that’s not true. I worked with Michael Ealy basically on Oprah’s movie. I worked with Gary Dourdan who is actually in this movie.

He’s hot. We saw that one, yeah.

There’s been some but I … you know, I’m a girl that … who wants to sort of mix it up in life, you know.

With Giovanni’s character, you had that certain aspect of his character is very vulnerable too in that whole unrequited love thing. Why do you think that men or even women for that matter keep that whole unrequited love thing with a person going on with someone else?

Now that I do know about.

Really?

And I think you know, we often seek validation for ourselves through other people and if you manage to sort of cross paths with someone who you think can give that to you, I think it becomes some more of an addiction and when they call it looking for love in all the wrong places, I think that becomes sort of something that we almost can’t deny ourselves of. It’s almost like going by a train wreck. You don’t want to look but you just have to. Something in you instinctually drives you to it. I think may be that’s the same here.

With this movie being as intricate as it was, how much leeway or did the director allow you to kind of go off script at stages or did you have to stick it because it’s more reliable as it twisted and turning so much?

We had to stick with it. I mean as you may have read in the press, Bruce likes to enter … I mean to improv a little bit. So he did a little bit of that but for the most part, we kind of had to stick to the script. I mean everybody would come up with a line here or there. You know, just sometimes as an actor, you find that the way the writer wrote a line just doesn’t come out of your mouth right so we change it a lot but we don’t change the intention but we sometimes change how it comes out of our mouths. It’s very hard to write for people that you don’t know and sometimes words just flow differently and so we had delivery always to change the little words, always keeping the intention of the line and of the scene the same.

What are the challenges for you to try and find the right script, the right project and … not to repeat yourself?

That’s the key, not to repeat myself and that’s tough because I don’t know what the right scripts are. I just try to be instinctual about it and when I read a script, if I feel like it’s something new, if it scares me to death I usually think okay, I haven’t done this. May be I should think about trying. You know, I just try to always work in different genres, never to become you know bored or never to get pigeonholed in a box you know, never being limited to only playing one kind of character.

Is there character you’re yearning to play?

Well, I’d really like to be in a romantic comedy and I do have one coming up called Nappily Ever After that the women in the room would totally… I’m going to shave my hair, shave my head bald for this movie.

Seriously?

I can’t wait. I’m going to be greasehead bald. I can’t wait.

When is that?

That could be at the end of the summer.

Is there a romantic leading man yet? Do you have a leading man?

We don’t know yet because we are just now … the last version of the script just came in and it came out really good so …

You’re producing it too, right?

Yeah.

I don’t know why you haven’t done more comedies before because you have a sense of humour.

Nobody in Hollywood thinks so though obviously. I have to find … that’s another nut for me to crack because I have to convince them that I could do a comedy and I think you know, they don’t see it right now so Nappily I’m doing for myself and it’ll be a chance to sort of you know, show that side of.

Did you conceivably write a film though?

I’ve written a couple of screenplays.

What are they about?

One is a comedy because I’ve been realising that I need to write one for myself, because it may be the only way I get one, and I wrote that. One is a thriller and the other one is only half done, so I won’t … that was like a little whacky movie about … it’s just a character piece, a little … it’s really a short that I was going to …

Who do you play in Nappily Ever After exactly?

I play this woman Venus, who … the movie, it’s all about a woman … you know that relationship that women … guys, just bear with me for one second … the relationship that women have with their hair and how hair throughout history has defined us and how we’re in such bondage, you know and everything is if my hair’s not right then we’re not right. So my character, at the beginning of the movie, something is done to her and her hair starts to fall out and you know … and so she decides one night after being drunk trying to deal with the fact that their hair is dragged up, she’s drunk and she decides to shave her hair completely bald and now she has to face you know, the next morning with no hair and how her whole life and everybody around her is now different and behaves differently because she was this beautiful goddess with this long hair and now she’s bald and how she’s different now, and she’s forced to look at what beauty really is and it comes from inside obviously, not from the outside but it’s a hard lesson for us to get and this movie will sort of expose that and help us sort of come to terms and may be every time we hear thunder, we won’t go like running for cover.

And does she go and get wigs, or does she just go with the you know?

She tries lots of funny things to deal with it, put it that way.

So you didn’t want to do the cap thing? You really wanted to just…

I’m really ready. I think I … I want to get this lesson on film because I think I still struggle with this hair issue too, so I’m really going to … I’m going to get the lesson on film. Hopefully other women will get it too.

What’s the best part about being Halle Berry right now?

The best part? The best part is I’m … I’ve been saying I’m just really happy. I’m in a really good space in my life and I’m happy and I can honestly say it’s not because of anything, it’s not because you know I have a really cute boyfriend now, it’s not because my career is in a good … it’s because I feel good about me and if anyone of those things should you know, dissipate, I’d still be happy, I’d still be okay and that feels like a really good place to finally have arrived to.

Did you have a lot of input on your wardrobe in this movie?

Yes, but we did have an amazing costume designer, Renee Kalfus but I needed the … you know, on many movies for me, if I put on a certain piece of clothing then I feel like the character. You know, I remember in Monster’s Ball when I had those flip-flops on, I was Leticia Musgrove. I had to have the flip-flops. And so there’s always one or two things that hones it in for me and this movie, there was the clothes. Every character that I played within the one character had a piece of clothing that when I had it, I knew okay, now I’m this character so a big part.

Did you keep them?

I did keep the clothes, yeah. I can’t even wear them again but I have them.

Aren’t you about to shoot something with your Monster’s Ball co-star Billy Bob Thornton or did you shoot it or is it happening?

There’s a movie called Tulia about Tulia Texas and we’re talking with him. He might if there’s a schedule conflict possibly but if he can work it out, yeah we’ll be working together again.

You had a great chemistry with Bruce. Can you talk about that?

Well, it’s hard not to have chemistry with Bruce because he’s a ladies’ man but he’s also a man’s man. You know, men like him. He represents that you know good ‘ol macho man’s man and women find him irresistibly sexy, and he’s funny, he’s charming, he knows how to say all the right things that just make you feel like you’re the most important person on the planet. Like he’s got all that down. He knows how to do all of that. So it’s really … it’s fun to be around Bruce.

Was there a different relationship that you had with Bruce then Giovanni?

Probably because of the nature of the characters that we all played and our connection to each other. You know, my relationship with Bruce was about seducing him so our banter in-between scenes was always very seductive and silly and sexy and you know, we just tried to stay in that mode where Giovanni and I, because he was like my guy Friday, you know we had a more cerebral conversations all the time and we talked about the computers a lot and you know, just different.

Did the star that you got yesterday, did that kind of almost to you re-legitimise who you are as an actress and your place in holiday today? What did it mean to you?

Yeah. You know, it was yet again another profound moment in my career. After Oscar, I wasn’t so sure I would ever have another one and I was surprised that I found myself standing up there on the verge of like tears again because I’m an emotional train wreck and I found myself up there really moved and really feeling proud and knowing that while it seemed like a simple star in the ground but it represented history and that I was a part of it, and the fact that my star is like right in the entrance of the Kodak Theatre said to me okay, I’ve got a piece of prime real estate here. It wasn’t a bad day. It’s a good day.

Have you got any charities or causes that you’re working with currently?

Yes, the Jenesse Centre. That’s my pet pead. That’s my cause that I care most about and it’s a home … it’s a place that provides shelter for battered and abused women and children, and we’re in the process now of raising money to build what we call A Fake It Til You Make It centre where people in the community can go and get advice and get help, legal assistance and education and things that women need today to help empower themselves. So that’s really important what I’m doing now.

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