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Halle Berry on breaking ribs and ‘making movies for people’

Updated January 27, 2022 - 12:24 pm

At age 55, Halle Berry likes to be afraid. Stick with her for a moment. “What I’ve learned about myself is that when I’m terrified of something that’s exactly what I should be doing. I’m like a moth to the flame. I go towards those experiences and don’t run away from them.”

Berry, 55, did just that as the director and star of Netflix’s film “Bruised,” which reached a ratings peak of No. 1 on the streamer. She stars in the film about a middle-aged mixed-martial artist who decides to return to the ring.

If that wasn’t enough, the Oscar winner, sex symbol and soft-spoken deep thinker who Zooms in for an interview also decided to start 2022 by saving the world.

On Feb. 4 she’s back on the big screen in the action-adventure film “Moonfall,” in which a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit and unfortunately sends it on a collision course with Earth. During the few weeks before the ka-boom, with humans facing annihilation, NASA exec and astronaut Jo Fowler (Berry) announces that she figured out how to stop the disaster from happening.

The problem is no one believes her except astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and conspiracy theorist K.C Houseman (John Bradley).

What does it take for Halle Berry to say “yes” to a project?

Halle Berry: As women, we must tell our own stories from our gaze. As people, we need to shine a light on a different perspective. I’ve realized that this career is not just about acting for me or learning the craft, but making sure that great stories are told.

And as an actor and Oscar winner what is the goal?

I just love playing deep, complicated characters who exist because of their layers and flaws. Give me someone searching for redemption. That’s very relatable. Give me the underdog who has to fight her way back.

What was the appeal of an end-of-the-world movie like “Moonfall”?

It related to the odd times we find ourselves living in with COVID. Normally, big disaster movies are just fun. We have this fascination about the end of the world. But now the pandemic is so much a part of our life, a movie like this resonated with me in a different way. It’s more relatable now than ever before. Also, I liked that originally the role was written for a man, and they changed it to a woman trying to save the world. She’s wicked smart and a director of NASA. She’s strong, with a real sense of self. She has had to survive this world and hold her own.

You play a mixed martial artist who returns to the ring in “Bruised,” which is currently streaming on Netflix. This wasn’t originally a Halle Berry role.

She didn’t look like me at the start. She was 25-year-old white Irish Catholic woman. I read the script and had to convince our producers I could reimagine the story for someone like me, and they said, “Yes.” It was a good lesson. You don’t know unless you ask.

And directing?

The producers later asked me to help find a director. I finally went home one night after not finding a filmmaker and a dear friend said to me, “Why don’t you direct it?” I said, “I’ve never directed a movie before.” She said, “Absolutely, you can. It’s all in your head. You love the project. All you have to do is believe that you can.”

It’s such a physical role. Did you get hurt?

I broke two toes, dislocated a finger and then broke two ribs. That happened during the training. Things broke right and left. I broke two ribs one day while shooting with Valentina (Shevchenko), who is the flyweight UFC champion. She trained me for about four or five hours a day early in the morning. And that was before my day at work as the director and actress began.

After 30 years on movie sets, what was a lesson you learned about what you didn’t want to do as a director?

Through my years, I’ve realized the best directors are extremely collaborative. They hire department heads and actors that they believe in and that they trust. They’re confident in the shared vision. Once things begin, they let those people do their jobs. They lift everyone and create an environment that is inclusive. Yes, at the end of the day the director has the final say. But what I’ve seen is the best directors are always open to the ideas of others because you never know where that great idea will come from each day. Same thing with life. Listen for the great idea.

Do you ever bring roles home?

In the beginning of my career, I’d bring the characters home. I was a lot more method. (She laughs) It wasn’t really a good thing to bring home some of the ladies that I played. Now I leave them on the set and just go home.

Is it easier or harder to get movies made these days?

Getting any movie made is hard. It’s even harder when you’re doing it independently. I’m really proud of the films I’ve made because getting them made was half the battle.

You’ve won the Oscar and have your name over the title. What’s the goal now?

It’s about making movies for people. I want people to go see them. Being on a platform like Netflix allowed my last film to go around the world, which was exciting. Also, being a woman of color made me realize that producing these special kinds of projects really has become a necessity for me. Otherwise, a project with meaty characters who need to be heard wouldn’t have their day. My thing is, there are a lot of great ideas out there. Just make sure that they don’t end up in your “I wish we could do this someday” box.

Do you have a favorite quote?

Maya Angelo once said, “There is no greater agony than an untold story inside of you.” I know when I have to do a project when I have to get this story out of me.

Switching gears … what is your life like as a mom to 13-year-old Nahla and 8-year-old Maceo?

My kids are the light of my life. They’re the reason the sun comes up tomorrow. Being a mom grounds me. It’s puts things in perspective. But it also makes you remember the child inside of you. I’ve never laughed or loved as hard.

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