Halle Berry for “Gothika”

It may not have been one of Halle Berry’s easiest years, but she’s managing to keep busy, in the thriller Gothika and nest year’s Catwoman, the Oscar-winning beauty is trying to put her bad marriage behind her. Paul Fischer reports. Halle Berry may not have had the easiest of years, but she wasn’t letting on. Promoting her latest film, the thriller Gothika, the beautiful Oscar winner laughingly admits that recent events in her life more than prepared her for the physicality of her upcoming Catwoman, so drawing on such characters is not so tough, “My life is full of stuff. My umbrella’s full these days. Lots of places to go to and lots of techniques to use to get to places.””

Gothika is an unusual project for the actress, who has had to fight hard for recognition, but she has no qualms about going as mainstream as she can, nor does she take her glamorous image as seriously as the media. “I began playing a crack head in Jungle Fever, so I always like going back, because that’s really how I started. I’m not afraid, because people are really animals, so those are the most cathartic experiences, if you want to know the truth. There is no pressure to be glamorous or beautiful. You get a pimple that morning; you’ve got bags under your eyes, great I can use it in the day. It’s sort of working, little pressure in that area, and I really like it.””

As beautiful as she is, Berry handles her celebrity with a quiet down-to-earthness and sense of humour. Asked how she treats an always intrusive media determined to uncover the whys and wherefores of her recent marriage break up. “I slap ’em,” she says laughingly, demonstrating said slap to this journalist. “I’ve grown so much over the years. With age comes a certain wisdom and comfort level within your own self. Therefore I’m learning how to accept that as one of the real downers of this job that I love so much. I’ve just accepted it, and have really gotten to a place where I don’t reel around about it like I used to. I used to go insane which I don’t any more.””

These days, Berry is happier thriving on the physical challenges of her recent films, from Gothika to Catwoman to X-Men. “I don’t really think about that physical aspect of it. It sort of evolved that way in the last couple of movies that I’ve done, but I really don’t think about what’s required of me physically when I think about whether I want to play this role. It’s really more about response to the character; do I think I can breathe life into this woman or can I connect to a place where this kind of character lives inside of me? Then I think: Oh, God, now I’ve got to do what?! It’s always an afterthought.””

Even if it means breaking her arm in the process, as happened while shooting a vital scene in Gothika with co-star Robert Downey. “We were both fighting against each other. There was just a wrong twist of the wrist and a little freaky thing happened. We were all surprised.” She smiles when asked if she was forgiving. “I mean, somebody breaks your arm, so if I wasn’t forgiving, I think he’d know,””

In Gothika, Berry plays a brilliant criminal psychologist who is inexplicably accused of the brutal murder of her husband. She may or may not be inhabited by the ghost of a young girl, but who will believe her? Berry says that she has always been a fan of the horror/ghost genre and was eager to dabble in this spooky film. “I’m a fan of the scary movie. That’s a reason I wanted to do this one. One had never come my way that I liked as much as this,” says Berry. The actress says that Gothika was not without its challenges. “Well, probably having done half the movie with the cast on, proved to be a challenge, not to mention trying to sustain an entire movie, being that emotionally full, yet trying not to overdo it, but be present enough to try and find levels within being at the height of fear and being scared.””

Berry was able to understand the psychological facets of her character, Berry admits. “My whole life has been about psychology, including living with my mother, who was always trying to break down my psyche, helping me understand who I am and where I’m going. Those kinds of things have been a part of me my whole life, so it seems pretty natural to be in this situation,””

Berry has no longer anything to prove. Her Oscar win has taken care of that. Since Monster’s Ball, Berry has been working non-stop, though mostly on big-budget genre films, not that she is giving up on smaller Indie films just yet. “I think it’s good to have a healthy balance. If you really want to be competitive in today’s market, you have to be where you can make money. Unfortunately, that’s what the business has become. It’s not just about the art or the craft of it anymore. So I think the smart person today realizes you have to be part of the art films that are done just for the love and the art, while you have to also do movies that are about commerce, because that’s really the balance of the industry today.””

Next up is the very mainstream Catwoman. Berry says that there won’t be anything of Eartha Kit in her performance. “I’m trying really hard not to hearken back to the great Catwomen of the past. I mean, they did it so beautifully; I don’t want to really try to mimic them, but just want to try to be my own version of a Catwoman. What’s great about our script is that we acknowledge other Catwomen, and we believe that there were nine that will live in this life and I’m just one of the nine.””

Berry also confirms that there is no X3 in her immediate future, or the Bond spin-off Jinx, for that matter. “I think it’s going to be time for me to make some decisions about how many of these women I can really be. I have these serious choices that I have to make coming up soon, and I don’t know if that will be one of them.””

Trying to put her recent marital woes behind her, Berry accepts that it has become increasingly difficult to maintain a private life, but also insists “that there are some things that I still haven’t revealed that are still secret.” She adds that her family keeps her focussed. “I’ve got strong family support and faith.”