Halle Berry: Halle Terror

Yet Berry cannot fail to understand, particularly because her abuser is--by her own admission--"a Hollywood actor." that the curiosity is not likely to fade. To date, her name has only been linked romantically to three men who might seem to fit the bill: Wesley Snipes--with whom it's been reported she had a live-in relationship--Eddie Murphy and Spike Lee. Setting aside which gent we're discussing, I ask if she's ever been contacted or approached by the celebrity who abused her? "He would not want to show up anywhere around me," she replies. "These kind of men tend to be egotistical and feel no shame or remorse. They don't 'get' what they do, they don't see it, because if they did, they couldn't function. But, as I sit back and watch his career and hear what's happening to him, I see that it's all coming back to him, slowly. I have chosen to never give out his name or get into the details [but] as for whether he lives or dies I could give two shits about it."

Has anyone, knowingly or otherwise, tried to cast them together in a movie? "I will never work with him," she asserts, her tone hardened steel. "I don't want to go around town trashing him, so I would never say, 'Don't cast him.' unless I had to, But I could not do my best work with that kind of presence around.

"Let me go back to these rumors about David and me," she says. Sure, let's. "I wonder how people get that sort of thing in their heads, that he beats me up or that we're living apart. They never seem to put as much weight on the reality of the situation as they do [on] the negative end of the situation. Do they ever stop to think about what both people do for a living? Most baseball players have to live in the city where they play. I'm an actress and you have to live in Hollywood. This bothers me because I find myself defending David and me all the lime. When we show up to places, people are looking because they think there's trouble. It's happened a lot and it's a drag.'' In case I don't get the message, she leans into the microphone to send out this Hallegram: "David and I are not getting divorced."

To lighten the mood, I ask whether the heal that comes from appearing in one of the year's biggest hits. The Flintstones. has put her in the running for better parts in bigger projects. "I was part of one of the biggest movies of the year," she replies, "but all I've gotten from being in The Flintstones is a lot of five years olds running after me in Thrifty drugstores."

But I tell her I'd heard she was offered the role Sandra Bullock played in Speed--true or false? On pressing, she admits she blew off the movie, which, maybe, could have made her. "I turned down Speed because I thought, 'I don't want to drive that bus.' There wasn't a whole lot of dialogue." she explains, "and I admit, I just don't get it when I read action stuff like. 'The bus flies 100 miles per hour over an over-pass.' One of the script versions they sent me, the bus never got out of Dodger Stadium, it just kept driving around and around the parking lot! What did feel good when I read it, though, was thinking, 'Okay, this is not my Academy Award-winning role, but here I'm being offered some-thing that wasn't written for a black woman.' When I watched the finished movie. I loved it, and I thought to myself. "The movie gods sure didn't talk to me that day.'"

But the movie gods sure French-kissed Bullock, this issue's cover girl, who's been making movie after movie ever since at ever-rising fees. "Had it been me driving that bus. that wouldn't be my reality, and that's a fact,'" Berry insists. "It's not my reality after being in The Flintstones, one of the biggest movies of the year, so why would I think it would be my reality after Speed? As a black woman, I know better. My reality is very different. My struggle is very different."

Since Berry has alluded to the very real complications of race in the movie business, this seems a good time to ask whether she had, as I'd heard, taken flak for comments she made to me in our previous interview about what she sees as Spike Lee's predilection for light-skinned African-American women, and for describing movies by the Hughes brothers as blaxploitation. She says, "There was a rumor that Spike was upset and I know for sure that the Hughes brothers were offended and were saying, 'Why would I say that about them?' Well, I didn't attack them personally in any way. If somebody had something to say about me in prim, the last thing I would do is call them on it because that's someone else's opinion. God bless them. I really don't care what you think about me. I want to be able to express my opinion without someone thinking I trashed them or was disrespectful. My manager suggested that if Spike got in touch with me, I should make every effort to speak to him, and if he didn't get in contact with me, I should write him a letter." And? ''I opted not to. He never got in touch with me, so I figured. I'm not going to make trouble where there isn't any, for sure. I didn't contact the Hughes brothers either. Look. I'm sorry if they were offended but I said nothing with any malicious intent. It's my opinion, that's all."

Opinionated, toughened-up and nobody's baby doll anymore, Berry is in demand, at least for the short-86term. She's all but signed on the dotted line to play a schoolteacher to a group of special-needs kids who build a solar-powered race car in the based-on-real-life Race the Sun. Although the movie, which, she says, "has a Cool Runnings-type of feel to it," offers no acting challenge anywhere near her dream role--playing Sadie Thompson, W. Somerset Maugham's brassy, unrepentant hooker in Rain, played in the past by everyone from Gloria Swanson to Joan Crawford to Rita Hayworth--but for now, Halle says, it will do. "The producers said, 'You'll have no makeup on for most of the movie,' and I do want to get away from the beauty tiling. Besides, it's gonna be a kick. The money's good and it's a role of the kind I haven't gotten a chance to do before.

"I'm gonna just keep plugging away, staying strong and keep coming back," she concludes, as we head out of the restaurant toward our cars. Just as we're parting. I ask her to complete this sentence: "I know I'll have made it in this town when..." and she fires back, laughing, "I'll know I've made it, Stephen, when I'm on the cover of Movieline, no matter what movie I've got coming out." Why do I drive away thinking I've interviewed Berry for the final time?


Stephen Rebello interviewed Alicia Silverstone for the March Movieline.

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