Kate's Notes

Friday, March 09, 2007

Halle Berry

Halle Berry

Halle Maria Berry (born August 14, 1966[1] in Cleveland, Ohio) is a multi-racial Emmy and Golden Globe award winning actress, who became the first black actresses to win an Academy Awards for her role in Monster's Ball. This former fashion model and beauty queen has graced the silver screen in over 30 films, and has gone onto become on of Hollywood’s most notable film actresses, beginning with starring as a crack addict in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever in 1991 and continuing all the way to an Oscar win, and Storm in the multi-million X-Men franchise. With a heafty resume, and only more to come, this beauty will never stop being one of the reigning queens of the cinema.

Early Life

The daughter of Judith Ann Hawkins, an English Liverpudlian, and Jerome J. Berry, who was African American, Berry's parents selected her first name from that of Halle's Department Store, which was then a local landmark in her birthplace of Cleveland, Ohio. Berry's maternal grandmother, Nellie Dicken, was born in Sawley, Derbyshire, England, while her maternal grandfather, Earl Ellsworth Hawkins, was born in Ohio. Berry's parents divorced when she was four years old and she subsequently was raised by her mother, a psychiatric nurse. Her father was an orderly in the same psychiatric ward where her mother worked. Berry has an older sister, Heidi who was born seven years before her. In 1989, Berry was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus type 1.

Berry was a popular student at Bedford High School and was a cheerleader, honor society member, editor of the school newspaper, class president and prom queen. In high school, she worked in the children's department at Higbee's Department store. She subsequently attended Cuyahoga Community College.

Before becoming an actress, she entered several beauty contests, winning Miss Ohio USA and Miss Teen All-American. Other entries include Miss USA (first runner-up in 1986 to Christy Fichtner of Texas, the second of the Texas Aces), and sixth place in Miss World 1986. In the Miss USA 1986 pageant interview competition, she said she hoped to become an entertainer, or to have something to do with the media or newspaper. Her interview was awarded the highest score by the judges.

Early Career

In the late 1980s, she went to Chicago, to pursue a modeling career as well as acting. One of her first acting projects was a television series for local cable by Gordon Lake Productions called "Chicago Force."

Berry auditioned for a role in an updated "Charlie's Angels" television series by producer Aaron Spelling. Though she did not receive the role, she impressed Spelling and he encouraged her to continue acting.

In 1989, Berry landed the role of Emily Franklin in the short-lived ABC television series "Living Dolls" (a spin-off of Who's the Boss?).

Notable Acting Career

Halle got her first big break in 1991 when Spike Lee cast her as a crack-addicted woman in Jungle Fever, co-starring Samuel L. Jackson. Halle was so determined to execute the role perfectly that she actually interviewed real addicts and stopped bathing 10 days before filming the racially charged film.

Her first co-starring role was in the film Strictly Business. In 1992, she won a starring role as a career woman who falls for Eddie Murphy in the romantic comedy Boomerang. That same year, Berry caught the public's attention as a headstrong biracial slave in the television adaptation of Queen: The Story of an American Family, based on the book by Alex Haley. Another early role Berry played was the sultry secretary in the live action Flintstones movie as "Sharon Stone," in a part rumored to have been intended for Sharon Stone (Berry would later co-star alongside Stone in Catwoman).

Then, in 1995 Berry showed she could handle more serious fare when she portrayed a former drug addict struggling to regain custody of her son in Losing Isaiah, holding her own opposite powerhouse co-star Jessica Lange.

In 1996, she played the role of Sandra Beecher in Race the Sun, and co-starred along side Kurt Russell in Executive Decision. She originally turned down the role, however she conceded when she was offered $1 million salary for the film – that was her first $1 million role.

Berry received praise for her role as an intelligent woman raised by activists who gives an older politician Warren Beatty a new lease on life in Bulworth (1998) and as the singer Zola Taylor, and one of the three wives of pop singer Frankie Lymon, in the unfortunately overlooked biopic Why Do Fools Fall in Love in 1998.

In 1999, Berry portrayed the first black woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award in the HBO biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Berry's performance as Dandridge was recognized with several awards, including an Emmy and Golden Globe. S he also served as one of the producers of the project.

Berry went onto portrayed the mutant Storm in the movie adaptation of the popular comic book series X-Men (2000) and its successful sequels X2: X-Men United (2003) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Berry's portrayal of Storm in the X-Men films has provoked some criticism. Some fans of the character of Storm refer to Berry as "HalleStorm" or "movie Storm". Furthermore, there was a rumor that Berry had said that because of a lack of roles for black actors, she was "reduced to" playing a comic book character. B erry and co-star Ian McKellen maintain that she was misquoted.

She also went onto make headlines when she was allegedly paid a $500,000 bonus to reveal her breasts in a scene in 2001's hacker film, Swordfish.

In late 2001, Berry appeared as Leticia Musgrove, the wife of an executed murderer, in the film Monster's Ball. Her performance was awarded prizes from groups like the National Board of Review and the Screen Actors Guild. The role also earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress in which she made history by becoming the first black woman to earn a Best Actress Academy Award. However, the role did come with its faire share of controversy: Angela Bassett stated in Newsweek that she declined the role of Leticia saying that "Film is forever. It's about putting something out there you can be proud of 10 years later." Later Berry would tell Vogue that "I haven't spoken to her about it. I don't know what she said, what she meant, if she said it, if she didn't....It didn't really affect me in the way it affected a lot of other people." Finally in 2006, Bassett told the Times that she spoke with Berry and that "She was hurt, but not only did it hurt her, it hurt me. We talked it through."

As Bond Girl, Jinx, in the 2002 blockbuster Die Another Day, she famously re-created the scene from Dr. No, bursting from the surf to be greeted by James Bond, as Ursula Andress did 40 years earlier in a bikini with a knife strapped to her side. On April 10, 2002, she received an injury on the set of Die Another Day: Halle was hurt on location in Cadiz, Spain while shooting an action sequence that involved Pierce Brosnan firing on a helicopter being flown by Rick Yune.

Also, in late 2003, Berry starred in the psychological thriller Gothika opposite Robert Downey Jr.

However, her roles did not always come with praise, and in her next lead role in the film Catwoman, she was awarded a "worst actress" Razzie award in 2005, which she accepted in person with a sense of humor and recognition that "to be at the top, you must experience the rock bottom."

She has become one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, commanding $14 million each for Gothika and Catwoman.

Berry's next performance was for television, where she appeared in the Oprah Winfrey produced ABC telepic Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005), an adaptation of the popular Zora Neale Hurston novel in which Berry played Janie Crawford, an iconoclastic, free-spirited woman whose unconventional mores regarding relationships upset her 1920s contemporaries in her small community. Meanwhile, she voiced the character of Cappy, one of the many mechanical beings in the animated feature, Robots (2005).

In 2004, she was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" in People magazine, and was voted as #7 on the "Top 100 Sexiest Women 2004" by FHM magazine.

In 2005, she was named again one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" by People magazine, named #1 on BET's "All Shades of Fine: The 25 Hottest Women of the Past 25 Years, named #41 on the Maxim magazine Hot 100 of 2005 list, and #5 in FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World 2005" special supplement. She was also named #6 in FHM magazine's "100 Sexiest Women in the World 2006" supplement.

In 2006, she filmed the thriller Perfect Stranger with Bruce Willis and recently wrapped shooting Things We Lost in the Fire with Benicio Del Toro. She is also set to star in Class Act, based on the real life story of a teacher whose students helped her run for political office.

Other Media Opportunities

Berry is also making a transition to behind the scenes work in film and television. She is working with author Angela Nissel to executive produce a comedy series based on Nissel's two memoirs, The Broke Diaries and Mixed: My Life in Black and White.

Berry has served many years as the face of Revlon cosmetics and was recently named the new face of Versace.

Media Attention Personal Life

Berry has stated that her self-identification is a result of the ignorance of her peers and her mother's influence. She is quoted as saying, "I was raised by my white mother and every day of my life I have always been aware of the fact that I am bi-racial. However, growing up I was aware that even though my mother was white, I did not look or 'feel' very white myself... If people would just learn to look at everyone equally and stop trying to label one another the issue of what we are all made of would be null and void...We are all members of the same race, the human race!"

In February 2000, she was involved in a car accident when she struck another vehicle after running a red light and left the scene before the police arrived. Berry, who had sustained a head injury, later stated she had no recollection of the accident and pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge. She paid a fine, made restitution to the other driver, performed community services, and was placed on three years’ probation.

Berry has been married twice. Her first marriage in 1992 to pro baseball player David Justice ended in divorce in 1996. David played with the Atlanta Braves and had experienced a measure of fame as the team rose to national attention in the early 1990s. They found it difficult to maintain their relationship when he was playing baseball and she was filming elsewhere. Her second marriage in 2001 to musician Eric Benét resulted in a 2004 separation and 2005 divorce. It has been reported that Benet is a sex addict, and his infidelity was the main cause for their split. In 2004, after their separation, Berry stated "I want love, and I will find it, hopefully."

As of 2006, she is currently dating Canadian supermodel Gabriel Aubry, who is nine years her junior. The couple met at a Versace photoshoot. After six months with Aubry, she stated in an interview "I'm really happy in my personal life, which is a novelty to me. You know I'm not the girl that has the best relationships".

Berry recently revealed to Extra that she plans to adopt children. "I will adopt if it doesn't happen for me naturally", she said. "I will definitely adopt. And I probably will adopt even if it does happen naturally." It has since been speculated that Aubry, who lived in five foster families between the ages of 3 and 18, possibly inspired Berry's interest in adoption. Later, she stated "I never want to be married again. I guess you could say I have bad taste in men. But I no longer feel the need to be someone's wife. I don't feel like I need to be validated by being in a marriage."

When speaking on the subject of having her own biological child, Berry has recently indicated that she has given thought to Aubry being the father, but that it is too early for that level of commitment involving a biological child between them. She stated that they both share the same feelings against the need to be married, and she indicated this to be one of she and Aubry's many strong bonds with one another. She stated that both feel the need to commit to one person emotionally and physically, but neither feels the obligation to marry in order to make that commitment official.

Charity Work and Activism

Being a diabetic herself, Berry became the first celebrity ambassador for the Diabetes Aware campaign. She also supports Clothes Off Our Back, Diabetes Aware, Entertainment Industry Foundation, Jenesse Center, and Make-A-Wish Foundation.


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