Also Credited As:Halle Maria Berry
|Halle Maria Berry on August 14, 1966 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA|
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Born on Aug. 14, 1966 in Cleveland, OH, Berry was raised by her African-American father, Jerome, a hospital attendant in the psychiatric ward, and her Caucasian mother, Judith, a psychiatric nurse. After her parents divorced when she was four, Berry grew up largely estranged from her absentee father, though he did return to the fold briefly in 1976. At Bedford High School, she was involved in many facets of student life, including cheerleading, editing the school newspaper and serving as president of the honor society. Berry was also elected prom queen, though some of her classmates - who were predominantly white - accused her of stuffing the ballot. A coin toss rectified the problem and Berry remained prom queen. She would later talk of her biracial background as painful and confusing throughout her youth, but that she made the decision early on to live life as a black woman because she knew that was how she would be perceived. After graduating in 1984, she won the Miss Teen Ohio Pageant and represented the state at the Miss Teen All-American Pageant. An overachiever since she was a child, Berry attempted to add another crown to her arsenal as Miss Ohio in the Miss USA competition, but unfortunately was named first runner-up instead. After finishing in the top five at the Miss World pageant, she moved into modeling, working first in the Chicago area and later in New York City.
Though she sought to continue her education by enrolling in Cuyahoga Community College, where she began studying broadcast journalism, Berry dropped out of school to pursue an acting career. In 1989, Berry hit pay dirt early on when she landed a regular role as a teenage model on the sitcom "Living Dolls" (ABC, 1989), but the show lasted a mere 12 episodes before getting canceled. Her subsequent guest work in other comedy series like "A Different World" (NBC, 1987-1993) followed before she was able to convince Spike Lee she could handle the demanding role of a crack addict in his racially complicated romantic drama, "Jungle Fever" (1991). Delivering a harrowing performance alongside then unknown Samuel L. Jackson, Berry proved that she was much more than a pretty face. But finding roles that challenged her considerable abilities was more of a challenge, as casting agents rarely considered her for meaty roles, due to her undeniable beauty. She was cast as a femme fatale in "Strictly Business" (1991) and Damon Wayans' stripper girlfriend in "The Last Boy Scout" (1991) before portraying a career woman who falls for Eddie Murphy in "Boomerang" (1992). Berry had better luck playing a headstrong post-Civil War woman in the titular role of "Queen," a CBS miniseries, based on Alex Haley's book about his grandmother's experiences.
Berry a landed the role of a sultry secretary in the live-action comedy "The Flintstones" (1994), winning the part after Sharon Stone turned it down. As a former drug addict struggling to regain custody of her son in "Losing Isaiah" (1995), Berry showed she could handle more serious fare, holding her own opposite powerhouse co-star Jessica Lange. Her hard-as-nails flight attendant was one of the few high points in the otherwise run-of-the-mill action thriller, "Executive Decision" (1996), a role that previously would have been given to Caucasian actresses. She once again broke through racial barriers as the spouse who finds herself framed for murder in "The Rich Man's Wife" (1996). Also that year, Berry's personal life took a surprisingly depressing turn when her marriage to former major league baseball player David Justice ended in divorce in 1997. So distraught over the break-up, which was spurred by their inability to be in one place together, Berry was prompted to take her own life, which she stated in a 2002 interview with The Telegraph.
Back on screen, she seemed miscast in the lead of the television miniseries "The Wedding" (ABC, 1998), which was set in the upper-middle class black milieu of Martha's Vineyard in the 1950s, but She fared better as an intelligent woman raised by activists who gives an older, slightly insane politician (Warren Beatty) a new lease on life in "Bulworth" (1998). She formed a close relationship with Beatty, who took her under his wing and gave her the confidence she needed to continue to be taken seriously as an actress. She next delivered as good performance as the singer Zola Taylor, one of the three wives of pop singer Frankie Lymon (Larenz Tate), in the unfortunately overlooked biopic, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" (1998). In 1999, Berry was able to realize her life-long dream of portraying the singer-actress who broke racial barriers by becoming the first black woman nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award in the HBO biopic "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge." Although both Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston had expressed a desire to play Dandridge, Berry managed to secure the role. Not only did she deliver a career-defining performance that netted her several awards, including an Emmy, but she also enhanced her Hollywood stature by serving as one the producers on the project.
The following year, Berry took sci-fi fans by Storm, so to speak, when she was cast as the beautiful mutant able to control the forces of nature in Bryan Singer's big screen version of the Marvel comic, "X-Men" (2000). Her success with the budding franchise was overshadowed when she was involved in a car accident on Sunset Boulevard with second husband, singer Eric Benet, and left the scene to go to the hospital for treatment, leading to a flurry of stories in the tabloid media. The actress pleaded no contest for leaving the scene of an accident and settled a civil lawsuit with the other vehicle's occupant out of court. In 2001, Berry was reduced to being nothing more than a decoration in the unspectacular John Travolta/Hugh Jackman thriller, "Swordfish," a fact made all the more clear when she appeared topless for the first time in her career. The gratuitous scene did little for the film's plot, but did manage to generate buzz, including unfounded rumors that she received a $500,000 bonus to do the scene. Later that year, she delivered a brutally honest and moving performance as a struggling waitress coping with a husband on death row and an overweight child in "Monster's Ball" (2001). Downplaying her looks and tearing into a rare challenging dramatic role, Berry earned critical plaudits for her work, which included a graphic, three minute-long love scene with co-star, Billy Bob Thornton.
Her performance in "Monster's Ball" generated substantial buzz and yielded some prizes from groups like the National Board of Review and the Screen Actors Guild. But most importantly, she made cinematic history by becoming the first black woman ever to earn an Academy Award for Best Actress. In her tearful acceptance speech, Berry said "This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It's for the women that stand beside me and for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door, tonight, has been opened." Enjoying her newfound prominence in the industry, Berry accepted the role of Jinx in the 20th James Bond feature, "Die Another Day" (2002) opposite Pierce Brosnan's 007. As the first A-list, Oscar-winning Bond girl in a generation, Berry was trumpeted in the role from the moment she began filming to the day the movie was released. She even gamely paid homage to the series' roots by appearing in a provocative tangerine bikini reminiscent of Ursula Andress' in "Dr. No" (1963). While her performance was not exactly Oscar bait, she did display a strong chemistry with Brosnan as his equal in both espionage and in bed, inspiring the studio to plan a spin-off with her character. The project, however, languished for years in development purgatory.
Berry next segued to "X2" (2003), the sequel to "X-Men" in which she reprised her role as Storm, a part that was expanded to suit her award-winning status and with a more becoming hairstyle. Nevertheless, rumors of friction between her and director Bryan Singer circulated, while Berry failed to participate in the massive press push for the blockbuster, putting her role in future sequels in question. Later that year, she starred in the horror thriller "Gothika" (2003), playing Miranda Gray, a doctor in a mental institute who becomes incarcerated in her own hospital after seemingly becoming possessed and murdering her husband. Berry provided a convincing and relatable presence in the stylish, but otherwise clichéd film. Meanwhile, she weathered another public split with a spouse, this time with Eric Benet. The split was in large part blamed on his alleged sex addiction and serial infidelity, with the heartbroken Berry publicly vowing to Oprah Winfrey never to marry again. Back on screen, she suffered further humiliation when she took on the role of Batman's popular comic book villainess/paramour "Catwoman" (2004). Berry portrayed the shy Patience Phillips, a repressed woman whose death grants her feline powers from a mystical cat in order to avenge herself. Although Berry's spectacular body, showcased in flesh-friendly skintight leather outfits, and her appropriately cat-like attitude as the whip-wielding Catwoman were appreciated, the film was otherwise a dismal loser all around, including Berry's inauthentic portrayal of meek Patience. So bad was the film and so unexpected was the Oscar winner's laugh-inducing performance, she was presented with a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress. Showing she had a sense of humor, Berry proudly accepted.
Berry returned to television when she appeared in the Oprah Winfrey-produced telepic, "Their Eyes Were Watching God" (ABC, 2005). In this adaptation of the popular Zora Neale Hurston novel, Berry played Janie Crawford, an iconoclastic, free-spirited woman whose unconventional mores regarding relationships upset her 1920s contemporaries in her small community. For her work in benefactor Winfrey's film, Berry received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. Meanwhile, she lent her voice to Cappy, one of the many mechanical beings to inhabit the animated feature "Robots" (2005). She next revived Storm for the third installment of the series, "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006), this time directed less successfully by Brett Ratner. She followed by starring in the slick crime thriller "Perfect Stranger" (2007), playing an investigative reporter who poses as a temp at an advertising agency in order to unravel the murder of a friend connected to a powerful ad executive (Bruce Willis). That same year, Berry starred in the dark character drama, "Things We Lost in the Fire" (2007), in which she played a woman grieving over the loss of her husband (David Duchovny) who lets his best friend (Benicio Del Toro), a heroin addict, move into the family's home in order to get both of their lives back on track. In 2008, Berry's typically stormy personal life took a happy turn when she gave birth to her daughter, Nahla, whom she had with the equally gorgeous model Gabriel Aubry.
With the exception of hosting the historical documentary "For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots" (PBS, 2010), Berry remained, for the most part, out of the public eye and out of theaters while enjoying motherhood. That changed in a very big way when the actress reemerged as the star of the psychological drama "Frankie & Alice" (2010). As a young woman suffering from a scarred past and multiple personality disorder, Berry's virtuoso performance alongside actor Stellan Skarsgård earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama nearly a full week before the film officially opened. In stark contrast to the acclaim she was receiving for her work in "Frankie & Alice," was yet another well-documented romantic failure when she and Aubry announced their separation. Despite assertions that they would put their daughter's happiness first, Berry and her ex-boyfriend were destined for a lengthy custody battle after Aubry formally asked a Los Angeles court to recognize his paternity and grant him shared custody of the then two-year-old Nahla. Those predictions were confirmed after Berry immediately responded by informing the courts that she had serious concerns for her daughter's well-being if the child were to be left alone in Aubry's care for any extended period of time.
Tensions and accusations between Berry and Aubry escalated as the actress began dating handsome French actor Olivier Martinez in the spring of 2010 after the pair met on the set of her latest film. Despite time spent overseas with her new boyfriend and daughter, in April 2011 Berry announced that her custody issues with Aubry had been amicably resolved. At the end of the year, the actress was back in theaters as part of the all-star ensemble cast of the romantic comedy "New Year's Eve" (2011), the holiday-themed sequel to director Garry Marshall's 2010 box office hit, "Valentine's Day." Although the film failed to live up to the success of its predecessor, the actress' personal life continued to make news when, after months of speculation, Martinez confirmed his engagement to Berry in March 2012. Filmed in 2010, Berry's long-delayed "Dark Tide" (2012), the aquatic-thriller starring Berry as a troubled shark expert on a dangerous mission, was released with little fanfare on DVD, most notable for being the film on which she met her new fiancé.
The earlier truce with Aubry soon crumbled, however, after Berry announced her intention to move to Paris with Nahla and live with Martinez. The actress cited various reasons for the potential cross-continent move, including reported death threats made by a longtime stalker, continued harassment by paparazzi outside her home and Nahla's school, and Berry's ongoing concern for her daughter's safety during visits with her father. After being taken to Dependency Court by L.A. Child Protective Services, Aubry was questioned about his personal behavior and his ability to safely care for Nahla. He countered by asking for $20,000 a month in child support from Berry, though his position was dealt a blow when a court-ordered custody evaluation declared that Berry was the parent better suited to providing a safe environment for their daughter. Meanwhile, Berry was given her own blow when her request to move overseas was denied by the courts in early November 2012.
The setback lead to physical violence on Thanksgiving Day less than two weeks later, when Martinez and Aubry were involved in an altercation at Berry's home. Aubry appeared to have received the worst of it as Martinez repeatedly punched and kicked him in Berry's driveway after the father had dropped off his daughter for Thanksgiving dinner. Martinez placed Aubry under citizen's arrest and quickly received an emergency protective order that prevented him from coming within 100 yards of Berry and Nahla. After Aubry was taken into custody, he was granted his own restraining order against Martinez. In his filing, Aubry stated that Martinez threatened to kill him and included photos of him with numerous cuts and bruises on his face. The temporary order against Aubry was lifted on November 27, and he was set to appear in court later in December to hear whether or not a judge would grant his three-year order against Martinez. All the drama did not serve Berry well, as even her longtime fans questioned her motives for wanting her daughter's father removed from her life.