Halle Berry discusses the ‘dark places’ she went to play an MMA fighter in ‘Bruised’ and why she’d never direct herself again… Halle Berry is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and has the distinction of being the first Black woman to win a best actress Oscar. But that doesn’t mean she’s done challenging herself.
In her latest movie “Bruised” (currently in select theaters and available onWednesday), Berry delivers not only a powerful performance but her first outing as a director.
In the movie, Berry plays Jackie Justice, an MMA fighter who became a viral joke after running out of the ring in the middle of a fight and is now cleaning rich people’s houses in Newark while living with an abusive boyfriend. But when the son she gave away as an infant comes back into her life, Justice decides to take steps to better her life, which means getting back into the ring.
Originally set up to be a project for Blake Lively to star in and be directed by “The Notebook” director Nick Cassavetes, Berry took over the project in 2018 and, along with training for two years to get in shape to play an MMA fighter, she also convinced the producers to let her direct it.
The result is a gritty drama that proves Berry is as talented behind the camera as she is in front of it.
Insider chatted with Berry overabout why getting into a dark mental place to play a flawed character is her favorite kind of acting, the directors that inspired her the most, and why the “Bruised” experience made her realize she would never star in a movie she directed again.
I would have to imagine, along with the physical prep for the role, getting in the mental space to play Jackie must have been an ordeal. What did you put yourself through?
I had to get into the headspace of being so fractured and so broken and having in many ways a loveless childhood that my character would do the unthinkable, which is leave her child. That’s just not what women do. And I think most women also don’t sign up for a blood sport. We don’t really want to get punched in the face. So I had to find ways to deeply connect to those two things that as a woman I would never do: leave my children or fight for real. So that was my work. To understand who does that and why do they do that.
Because it is so foreign to who you really are, does that make it fun playing that kind of character?
Those are the best roles. When you really have a departure from yourself and create something that is authentic and new. It was a challenge for me to go to some of those dark places and to do all the work. I trained two years to look like I was a real fighter. Those are big challenges that I live for. I have worked really hard in my career to find roles like this that I can really do my thing.
And on top of all that you go and direct the movie. Was there a director you have worked with in the past that you modeled your style off of?
There was nobody I really wanted to model myself after but I have directors who are heroes of mine. I love David O. Russell and the way he approaches the work. I worked very early on in my career with Spike Lee (1991’s “Jungle Fever”), and I learned a lot from him.
From Spike, I learned a lot about authenticity and fighting to have a voice that’s clear and pure even if others don’t understand. And that was big on this movie because so many people didn’t understand this world because it was only in my head, it wasn’t on the page.
Martha Coolidge (1999’s “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge”) was a female director that I worked with early on. Susanne Bier (2007’s “Things We Lost in the Fire”) reminded me to always keep my feminine gaze and that it was important to fight for that and put it on the screen. So I wouldn’t say there was anybody I modeled myself after, but I remember the advice all these people gave me over the years.
Going forward do you want to continue directing?
Absolutely. Having done this now I now know it’s possible. I can do it. I think as a woman we haven’t often thought we could do it. You know? So with this project, I got to prove to myself that I can do it. I’m capable of doing it. I loved being in this position and telling a story from my point of view, a female point of view. I doubt I would act and direct again. Either one of those jobs I realized through this experience is largely enough. But directing again, absolutely. I have many stories swirling around in my head right now that I would love to be able to tell.
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