Is This The Real Halle Berry?

Holed up with scorching up-and-coming actress Halle Berry in a hotel room overlooking Universal Studios, I feel like I'm living a scene from The Bodyguard, the Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston megahit I laughed clear through. The biggest difference between that film and the events that have befallen Berry in the last 24 hours is that no one's laughing.

"Somebody posed as me," the actress explains candidly, "and canceled all my flight reservations, got into my limo, and had the limo take them to a bank and then this hotel, the day before I got here. So when I did get here, there was no car to pick me up--they said they picked me up yesterday." Berry and her people have been trying to make sense of this scary turn of events since it happened. "Somebody's too interested in my life," she says warily.

The good news is that the mysterious limo-jacker isn't the only one interested in the 24-year-old star of such films as Boomerang and Strictly Business, and the TV miniseries Queen. Since her big-screen debut as a crack-head in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, the actress has been generating beaucoup interest in an industry where decent roles for women are scarce, and decent roles for black women are even scarcer.

Halle's niche gets bigger in the next few months with the release of two new films, Father Hood and The Program. In the action-comedy Father Hood, Berry plays an investigative reporter who, in her quest to bust a foster home for child abuse, crosses paths with escaped convict/concerned father Patrick Swayze. In The Program, she plays a college student who tutors, then falls in love with, a football player. The role could hardly be called a stretch for Berry, who in real life just tied the knot with Atlanta Braves star right fielder David Justice.

It sounds like a fairy tale romance, or at least a spontaneous video date. Though they'd both admired each other on the small screen ("I was watching a lot of [Braves baseball] on TBS there for awhile, and he rented Strictly Business and never took it back"), the two didn't meet until a journalist acquaintance asked Halle for an autograph on behalf of Justice. "How about you give him my number instead?" she suggested.

Less than eight months later, she found herself setting up house in Atlanta and adjusting to the peculiarities of being married to a professional athlete. "He has to eat string beans before the games," she says incredulously. "And driving to the stadium I have to start a fight with him because he plays better when he's a little bit aggravated."

"Speaking of the thrill of competition, Halle," I say, "I understand you were first runner-up to Miss USA in 1986."

"Yeah," says Berry, "and I haven't watched pageants since. You get like over $200,000 worth of cash and prizes. That's really why I wanted to do it. I thought, 'If I win, I'm just going to take the cash and run.'" I still find it hard to believe that there's a creature walking the earth who was considered more fetching than the casually dressed beauty sitting before me. Any backstage scandal we should know about? "It's not always fair," Berry says dryly. "The year I was in it, there were 12 judges. Six of them were former Miss Texases. Miss Texas won."