NEW YORK — The first thing Halle Berry wants to talk about is the hair. Sure, she'd been agitating for two movies for her X-Men character Storm to be featured more prominently, and sure, she'd even considered turning down the new X-Men: The Last Stand until new director Brett Ratner gave her character things to do like flying and being more of a leader. But first came a coiffure makeover. "I do like the hair," she says at Last Stand's recent New York press junket. "Thanks to Brett. That's the first thing he said to me: 'The hair — gotta go. I don't know how y'all did it before, but it's got to be better.’ ”
STORM: Halle Berry's authentic self.
Storm also gets to take a strong stand regarding the movie's central issue: whether the superpowered mutants should accept a "cure" that will make them normal and powerless. The Oscar-winning stunner empathized, she says, having overcome her own self-esteem issues as a woman of color and a diabetic. "I was raised with a really open mind, by a single parent who was really different than I was," she says. "My mother raised me to be my authentic self, whoever that is, and to find ways to be OK with who I am and not want to change the parts of me that are maybe not as desriable by society's standards, but are OK as long as I'm OK."
Berry, who turns 40 in August, says she'd like to raise a child the way she was raised. "I'd like to have my own children, but as I get older, I've come to face the reality that I might miss it. And if I miss it, adoption is always an option. What feels important, as I get older, is that I feel I need something more than a career. Family, and having a deeper meaning to wake up to and go to my career, is feeling really important."
Berry had a meaningful career moment when she became the first African-American woman to win a Best Actress Oscar, for 2001's Monster's Ball, but she recalls that "the moment after I walked offstage with that award, although it was one of the best moments of my life, an unbelievable amount of pressure and fear sat down on me. I suffered for two weeks afterward. And then something clicked in my head. 'You didn't get this award with that pressure on your head, worrying about what people thought and what you should do next. So don't continue that way.' That's how I've approached my career."
Still, after a stretch that's included big-budget movies like the X-Men films and Catwoman, she's only now returning to small art films, like the Monster's Ball-ish Things We Lost in the Fire, which she's about to shoot with Benicio Del Toro. "I love tortured women," she says. "I love women who are suffering and who have to rise above and choose not to be victims, choose to make good of their situation and not wallow in despair. I love those strong women who have to overcome a lot and beat the odds."
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