It’s been 18 years since Halle Berry made history by becoming the first Black woman to win an Oscar for the Best Actress In A Leading Role, when she took home the esteemed golden statue for her performance in “Monster’s Ball.”
“I knew others should have been there before me and they weren’t”
Now almost two decades later, the 54 year old star is still the only black actress to have won the prestigious title. In an Interview with Variety, Berry admitted that the win is still “one of my biggest heartbreaks” since it serves as a bittersweet reminder that Hollywood has a long way to go. Especially since her win didn’t break the boundaries for her own career or the industry as a whole.
Speaking to the publication, Halle said, “The morning after, I thought, ‘Wow, I was chosen to open a door.’ And then, to have no one …,” she said. “I questioned, ‘Was that an important moment, or was it just an important moment for me?’ I wanted to believe it was so much bigger than me. It felt so much bigger than me. Mainly because I knew others should have been there before me and they weren’t.”
She also reflects on how she’d hoped her win would fuel some much needed change. “Just because I won an award doesn’t mean that, magically, the next day, there was a place for me,” added Berry. “I was just continuing to forge a way out of no way.”
“This award is for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance”
In Monster’s Ball, Berry plays a grieving woman named Leticia Musgrove who becomes romantically entangled with Billy Bob Thornton’s Hank Grotowski. Who is a racist man. What she doesn’t know is that he is the one who executed her husband.
Halle’s acceptance speech till this day, remains a memorable moment in Oscar History. At one point during her acceptance speech, the actress said “this award is for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
Berry also admitted that she had not prepared a speech at the time. The actress recalled the moment and shared the sweet words Russell Crowe, who presented the Oscar to her, offered onstage.
“The only thing I remember is somehow I was up on the stage, and I remember Russell whispering in my ear, ‘Breathe, mate. Breathe.’ Then I remember I turned around and saw all the faces and started talking,” recalled Berry, who was visibly emotional while accepting the award.
“They call it the Oscar curse”
After Berry won the Oscar for her stellar performance in Monster’s Ball, she went on to play the role of Jinx in the James Bond film, Die Another Day. Although the movie was a hit at the box office, things didn’t exactly turn out the way Berry had hoped. The actress revealed that she didn’t get the calls from Hollywood’s big directors.
“I think it’s largely because there was no place for someone like me,” she told the publication. “I thought, ‘Oh, all these great scripts are going to come my way; these great directors are going to be banging on my door.’ It didn’t happen. It actually got a little harder. They call it the Oscar curse. You’re expected to turn in award-worthy performances.”
“This is a great chance for a woman of color to be a superhero. Why wouldn’t I try this?”
A few years later, she starred in one of her most infamous films, Catwoman. The 25th Razzie Awards dubbed it the “worst picture” of the year and named Berry the “worst actress” for her role in the film.
Talking about the film, she revealed, “I thought to myself, ‘This is a great chance for a woman of color to be a superhero. Why wouldn’t I try this?'” Berry said, before admitting that the story itself never actually felt “quite right.”
“I remember having that argument. ‘Why can’t Catwoman save the world like Batman and Superman do? Why is she just saving women from a face cream that cracks their face off?'” Berry says of the film’s plot. “But I was just the actor for hire. I wasn’t the director. I had very little say over that.”
“I’m more encouraged that as women, we are feeling confident enough to tell our stories”
Despite having numerous setbacks and obstacles, Berry never gave up on pursuing her dream roles. The actress went on to star in many more films, including the X-Men sequels and action films like Kidnap and John Wick: Chapter 3. Halle is now getting ready to debut Bruised, a movie she both acted in and directed.
In Bruised, Halle plays Jackie Justice, a middle-aged mixed martial arts fighter who decides to get back in the ring.
“I definitely feel like there’s a turning point,” Berry admitted. “I’m more encouraged that as women, we are feeling confident enough to tell our stories. And there is a place for us to tell our stories. For so long, our experiences have been told narratively through the guise of men.”
Talking more about the differences between acting and directing, she admitted that, “As an actor, I always show up and do my part, and I can only do what I can do. Being the director, I have a part in the totality of every department. I get to have a voice.” Bruised premieres at Toronto on Sept. 12.