Halle Berry Intentionally Tried Not Playing the Gorgeous Girl

September 16, 2016

It’s hard to believe the seemingly ageless star Halle Berry celebrated her 50th birthday last month. Her prolific body of work includes a wide array of characters ranging from her film debut as a crack addict in Jungle Fever to her recent role as super-heroine Storm in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Most notably she made history as the only woman of color to date to win a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Leticia Musgrove, the troubled wife of an executed murderer in Monsters Ball.

But Berry insists while launching her acting career she had to beg to be taken seriously in the industry due to her good looks. And so she attempted to build credibility by taking on less-than-glamorous roles. In a recent interview with W magazine, Berry revealed, “It was intentional not to play the gorgeous girl. I came from the world of beauty pageants and modeling and right away when people heard that, I got discounted as an actor.”

Indeed during the 1980s, Berry entered several beauty contests, always resulting with impressive outcomes. She won Miss Teen All American, Miss Ohio USA, finished runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, and finished sixth in the Miss World competition.

At 23 years of age, Berry transitioned into acting by landing her first acting job after her first audition! As a result she became a cast member–shoulder pads and all–for the 1989 television sitcom Living Dolls. Unfortunately, the show was poorly received and only lasted 13 weeks.

It wouldn’t be long before Spike Lee called Berry in for an audition to play his character’s wife in the movie Jungle Fever. After trying out for the part, Berry says she tried to convince Lee to consider her for a different part; i.e., the part of a crack addict. This went contrary to his convictions, but a determined Berry persisted, saying she’d audition without any makeup so he could see for himself that she “deep down” was the crack addict. Finally, he agreed to let her audition for the part, and indeed gave her the role. “It was major for me,” Berry says.

Halle continued to seek the less-than-glamorous roles. For instance, she describes how she tried to convince producer Lee Daniels to consider her for Monsters Ball even though he was repelled by the thought:

“He thought there’s no way and my argument to him was, just because someone looks a certain way doesn’t mean that they are spared adversity. Adversity does not discriminate. I thought, ‘My looks haven’t spared me one hardship or one hurt moment or one painful situation. So please, you know, give me a shot at this.’ I said, ‘I often think it’s more interesting when you see someone that looks a certain way struggle in ways that you wouldn’t think they would be struggling with.’ He ultimately gave me a chance and that sort of changed the course of my career in so many ways.”

Clearly, Berry’s beauty has been a tremendous advantage throughout her career. Countless magazines have praised Berry’s stunning appearance by placing her on their Most Beautiful lists. And plenty of her film roles like Bond Girl Jinx and Catwoman certainly play up her gorgeous looks to the max. But she did make an effort to break away from her model image and weave in some unexpected roles to break through barriers.

There are many obstacles to encounter during your journey as an actor. And the challenges might be based on what you are lacking in terms of appearance, skills, or connections. But they also might be the result of your endowments.

Use Caution at Casting Calls & On Set

July 20, 2012

This week Halle Berry suffered a head injury while shooting a fight sequence for her new film, The Hive. After taking a nasty fall, Berry hit her head on concrete and then began to vomit—a sure sign of concussion. Fortunately, she’s been released from the hospital and is reportedly doing fine. But this story brings starkly to mind the occupational hazards of acting. Make no mistake, the movie business can be a dangerous place. We’ve read stories about actors who perform their own stunts like Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Harrison Ford, and Jason Statham. And with all the preparation and support on set, it’s pretty rare that anything too tragic seems to happen. But, there are many stories attesting to the fact that, at times, things really do go wrong and someone gets hurt. Just last week, singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth was hit in the head by scaffolding on the Brooklyn set of The Good Wife, and had to be rushed to the hospital. She’s been released and is reported to be recovering at home. And also consider, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Hough, Kristin Stewart, Justin Timberlake, and Nicole Kidman have all incurred injury on set. In fact, Shia Labeouf spent hours in surgery after a car wreck crushed his hand on the set of Transformers 2. He considers himself lucky to have 80 percent use of two injured fingers.

Heck, you can even get hurt during an audition. Camera operators are like sailors with their foreboding stories of sea travels. One camera operator describes pairs of children required to “really fight” using the toy weapons to be advertised. Turns out the camera operator was the one hit with a broken toy ax blade to the thigh! The prop nailed him with such force he ended up getting five stitches. In truth, anyone and everyone in that room was at risk.

So when you go into the audition room or venture on set, stay alert and keep your thinking cap on. Make a decision as to how much you’re willing to risk or what boundaries you’re going to require. Are you the actor who must perform all his or her own stunts to feel authentic and in the moment? Or are you comforted by the director’s “Cut!” and content to allow a stunt double to complete the precarious action? Whatever your decision, remember you still won’t be immune to the occasional occupational flukes. How can anyone ever be considered completely safe when you hear stories like Gerard Butler’s suspender snapping and hitting Hilary Swank in the face on the set of the romantic comedy P.S. I Love You? She needed three stitches on her forehead!
 So fellow thespians, take heed: With all the requirements for intense drama, heavy action, boundless creativity, and increasing realism, the acting field can a dangerous business.