For `Catwoman,' Halle Berry took cues from her cat

She picks quirky roles, but she lands on her feet

Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

July 22, 2004|By Mike Szymanski | Mike Szymanski,ZAP2IT.COM

LOS ANGELES -- Halle Berry is the cat's meow these days. Or, at least, she is with Catwoman.

"I have watched my cat, and I listen to how he purrs and plays and walks and when he gets angry," Berry says. "And there's a sound that he makes that I've tried to use, too."

Her cat is one of the 60 homeless cats used in a scene in her last film, Gothika, with Robert Downey Jr. In that film, she played a successful psychiatrist who is accused of brutally killing her husband. Berry's mother worked as a psychiatric nurse, and she helped her with the role.

"My mom was a psych nurse at a veteran's hospital for 35 years, and I've grown up with that in my life -- therapy and psychology and always knowing the value and the benefit of it," Berry says. "My mom was really helpful in telling me what things a person in that situation would feel, and how the [heck] they got there."

In lots of ways, Berry says she looks at where she is now and wonders how the heck she got there. Now the highest-paid black actress in Hollywood history, she also has an Oscar and Golden Globe, Emmy, Image and SAG Awards, so she's always aware of expectations to better herself.

"People thought it was strange I was going off to be a Bond girl right after winning an Oscar," she says about playing Jinx in Die Another Day after her award-winning role as an abusive mom in Monster's Ball. "Then, they thought it was strange that I did Gothika, or played Storm again in X2. I don't care."

She's keeping busy, saying "my umbrella is full," with her roles in coming movies The Guide, The Set-Up, Nappily Ever After and the animated sci-fi film Robots. She ended her second marriage last October and tries to maintain her privacy, saying, "There are some things that I still haven't revealed, that are still secret. I've got strong family support and faith."

And, if reporters get too personal, she says kiddingly with a wave of her hand, "I slap them."

Although she looks stunning as she walks into the room for an interview, she insists she hasn't felt pressure to always be beautiful. "I don't buy into that pressure to be glamorous all the time. It's impossible, I mean, you get a pimple in the morning, you wake up with bags under your eyes, you see if you can use it in your work, maybe incorporate it into your character."

There's no room for bags under her eyes in Catwoman, where she's decked out in a skin-tight leather outfit, spars with Sharon Stone and plays around with Benjamin Bratt.

"Halle is one of the most dedicated, focused actors that I've ever worked with. She's arguably one of the biggest superstars in the world," Bratt says, "but I have to give her full credit because even in the most ridiculous or seemingly insignificant off-camera moment, she would be there."

French director Pitof says, "I know people thought there would be cat fights among the cast, but they were the utmost professionals, and Halle is a superstar no matter what superhero she plays."

And what about another comic book role she's known for?

She's not convinced she will reprise her superhero role of Storm in the X-Men franchise because, she says, "My desires have been dictated by what the fans have come to me with, and what their complaints have been. After every movie, especially the real diehard fans, they often say, `Yeah, you know, Storm was OK, but she should do more, she should fly, she should fight, she should be more of what she is in the comic-book series.'

"I'm not really complaining, I'm happy to be a part of it as it's been a great franchise to be a part of, but I think the fans feel that in the comic book she's represented as a little bit more of a leader."

She laughs about the comic-book turn of her career. "I wasn't an avid comic book reader, but I did read them. Batman was probably the biggest one -- it was something I related to, so it's really great that now I get to be Catwoman."

One of her idols, Eartha Kitt, is one of the most famous actresses to play Catwoman. "Being a woman of color, that meant a lot to me as a kid to see someone like me playing a character that was so universal. So, that theme has sort of come full circle for me now as I get to be the Catwoman for the new century."

She sighs, almost purring, "That feels really good."

For more film events, see Page 32.

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