"Just because I won an award doesn't mean that, magically, the next day, there was a place for me."
Halle Berry has opened up about the challenging road she faced in Hollywood after being the first -- and only -- Black woman awarded a Best Actress Oscar (for 2002's "Monster's Ball").
In a new interview with Variety, the 54-year-old star revealed she was disappointed that the historic moment didn't translate into her new calling card for the industry.
"I think it's largely because there was no place for someone like me," Berry began. "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."
The Cleveland native said she was hopeful that her role as Jinx in the Bond film "Die Another Day" would evolve into a spinoff after her Oscar win, but MGM didn't want to pick up the $80 million tab.
"It was very disappointing," she confessed "It was ahead of its time. Nobody was ready to sink that kind of money into a Black female action star. They just weren't sure of its value. That's where we were then."
What followed instead was her famously panned performance in the equally lambasted film "Catwoman." Berry said she thought it was a great opportunity "for a woman of color to be a superhero."
"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?' But I was just the actor for hire. I wasn't the director. I had very little say over that."
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Being cast as Storm in the "X-Men" series gave Berry another chance at her superhero aspirations, but it involved working with director Bryan Singer.
Singer has been accused of sexual assault by at least four men who say they were underage at the time of the alleged assault. He was also fired from "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 2017 for reportedly failing to arrive to work. Singer has denied all claims.
"Bryan's not the easiest dude to work with," Berry said of her experience working with the "The Usual Suspects" director. "I mean, everybody's heard the stories -- I don't have to repeat them -- and heard of his challenges, and what he struggles with."
"I would sometimes be very angry with him," she continued. "I got into a few fights with him, said a few cuss words out of sheer frustration. When I work, I'm serious about that. And when that gets compromised, I get a little nutty. But at the same time, I have a lot of compassion for people who are struggling with whatever they're struggling with, and Bryan struggles."
She added, "Sometimes, because of whatever he's struggling with, he just didn't always feel present. He didn't feel there. And we're outside in our little 'X-Men' stage freezing our ass off in Banff, Canada, with subzero weather and he's not focusing. And we're freezing. You might get a little mad."
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But the most heartbreaking aspect of Berry's post-Oscar expectations, according to the mother-of-two, was that the landscape didn't change for Black women and women of color.
"Just because I won an award doesn't mean that, magically, the next day, there was a place for me," she explained. "I was just continuing to forge a way out of no way."
"It's one of my biggest heartbreaks," the star admitted. "The morning after, I thought, 'Wow, I was chosen to open a door.' And then, to have no one -- I question, '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."
Adding to the anguish, said Berry, was the fact that a Black woman hasn't followed her win in the past 20 years.
"I thought there were women that rightfully, arguably, could have, should have. I hoped they would have, but why it hasn't gone that way, I don't have the answer."
"I thought Cynthia was going to do it last year," Berry said of Cynthia Erivo's performance in "Harriet." "I thought Ruth [Negga, for 2016's 'Loving'] had a really good shot at it too."
Meanwhile, the release of Berry's interview follows news the Oscars have announced that film productions would have to meet a certain standard of representation and inclusion to qualify for Best Picture.
On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences revealed four standards in determining a film's eligibility for the Oscar.
Productions must meet two of these four requirements:
- on-screen representation, themes, and narratives
- creative leadership and project team
- industry access and opportunities
- audience development
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