Halle Maria Berry (born Maria Halle Berry; August 14, 1966) is an American actress. Berry won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the romantic drama Monster's Ball (2001). As of 2018, she is the only black woman to have won the award.
Berry was one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood during the 2000s and has been involved in the production of several of the films in which she performed. Berry is also a Revlon spokesmodel. Before becoming an actress, she started modeling and entered several beauty contests, finishing as the 1st runner-up in the Miss USA Pageant and coming in 6th place in the Miss World Pageant in 1986. Her breakthrough film role was in the romantic comedy Boomerang (1992), alongside Eddie Murphy, which led to roles in films such as the comedy The Flintstones (1994), the political comedy-drama Bulworth (1998) and the television film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999), for which she won the Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, among many other awards.
In addition to her Academy Award win, Berry garnered high-profile roles in the 2000s such as Storm in the X-Men film series (beginning in 2000), the action crime thriller Swordfish (2001), and the spy film Die Another Day (2002), where she played Bond Girl Jinx. She then appeared in the X-Men sequels, X2 (2003) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). In the 2010s, she appeared in movies such as the science fiction film Cloud Atlas (2012), the crime thriller The Call (2013) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). Berry was formerly married to baseball player David Justice, and singer-songwriter Eric Benét. She has a daughter by model Gabriel Aubry, and a son by actor Olivier Martinez.
Berry was born Maria Halle Berry; her name was legally changed to Halle Maria Berry at age five. Her parents selected her middle name from Halle's Department Store, which was then a local landmark in her birthplace of Cleveland, Ohio. Her mother, Judith Ann (née Hawkins), who is of English and German ancestry, was a psychiatric nurse. Her father, Jerome Jesse Berry, was an African-American hospital attendant in the psychiatric ward where her mother worked; he later became a bus driver. Berry's maternal grandmother, Nellie Dicken, was born in Sawley, Derbyshire, England, while her maternal grandfather, Earl Ellsworth Hawkins, was born in Ohio. Berry's parents divorced when she was four years old; she and her older sister, Heidi Berry-Henderson, were raised exclusively by their mother.
Berry has said in published reports that she has been estranged from her father since her childhood, noting in 1992, "I haven't heard from him since [he left]. Maybe he's not alive." Her father was very abusive to her mother. Berry has recalled witnessing her mother being beaten daily, kicked down stairs and hit in the head with a wine bottle.
Berry graduated from Bedford High School where she was a cheerleader, honor student, editor of the school newspaper and prom queen. She worked in the children's department at Higbee's Department store. She then studied at Cuyahoga Community College. In the 1980s, she entered several beauty contests, winning Miss Teen All American in 1985 and Miss Ohio USA in 1986. She was the 1986 Miss USA first runner-up to Christy Fichtner of Texas. In the Miss USA 1986 pageant interview competition, she said she hoped to become an entertainer or to have something to do with the media. Her interview was awarded the highest score by the judges. She was the first African-American Miss World entrant in 1986, where she finished sixth and Trinidad and Tobago's Giselle Laronde was crowned Miss World. According to the Current Biography Yearbook, Berry "...pursued a modeling career in Chicago.... Berry's first weeks in New York were less than auspicious: She slept in a homeless shelter and then in a YMCA".
In 1989, Berry moved to New York City to pursue her acting ambitions. During her early time there, she ran out of money and had to live briefly in a homeless shelter.
Later in 1989, her situation improved and she was cast in the role of model Emily Franklin in the short-lived ABC television series Living Dolls, which was shot in New York and was a spin-off of the hit series Who's the Boss?. During the taping of Living Dolls, she lapsed into a coma and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. After the cancellation of Living Dolls, she moved to Los Angeles. She went on to have a recurring role on the long-running primetime serial Knots Landing.
Her film debut was in a small role for Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991), in which she played Vivian, a drug addict. That same year, Berry had her first co-starring role in Strictly Business. In 1992, Berry portrayed a career woman who falls for the lead character played by Eddie Murphy in the romantic comedy Boomerang. The following year, she caught the public's attention as a headstrong biracial slave in the TV adaptation of Queen: The Story of an American Family, based on the book by Alex Haley. Berry was in the live-action Flintstones movie playing the part of "Sharon Stone", a sultry secretary who seduced Fred Flintstone.
Berry tackled a more serious role, playing a former drug addict struggling to regain custody of her son in Losing Isaiah (1995), starring opposite Jessica Lange. She portrayed Sandra Beecher in Race the Sun (1996), which was based on a true story, shot in Australia, and co-starred alongside Kurt Russell in Executive Decision. Beginning in 1996, she was a Revlon spokeswoman for seven years and renewed her contract in 2004.
She starred alongside Natalie Deselle Reid in the 1997 comedy film B*A*P*S. In 1998, Berry received praise for her role in Bulworth as an intelligent woman raised by activists who gives a politician (Warren Beatty) a new lease on life. The same year, she played the singer Zola Taylor, one of the three wives of pop singer Frankie Lymon, in the biopic Why Do Fools Fall in Love. In the 1999 HBO biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, she portrayed the first black woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and it was to Berry a heart-felt project that she introduced, co-produced and fought intensely for it to come through. Berry's performance was recognized with several awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award.
Berry portrayed the mutant superhero Storm in the film adaptation of the comic book series X-Men (2000) and its sequels, X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). In 2001, Berry appeared in the film Swordfish, which featured her first topless scene. At first, she refused to be filmed topless in a sunbathing scene, but she changed her mind when Warner Brothers raised her fee substantially. The brief flash of her breasts added $500,000 to her fee. Berry considered these stories to be rumors and was quick to deny them. After turning down numerous roles that required nudity, she said she decided to make Swordfish because her then-husband, Eric Benét, supported her and encouraged her to take risks.
She appeared as Leticia Musgrove, the troubled wife of an executed murderer (Sean Combs), in the 2001 feature film Monster's Ball. Her performance was awarded the National Board of Review and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress; in an interesting coincidence she became the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Actress (earlier in her career, she portrayed Dorothy Dandridge, the first African American to be nominated for Best Actress, and who was born at the same hospital as Berry, in Cleveland, Ohio). The NAACP issued the statement: "Congratulations to Halle Berry and Denzel Washington for giving us hope and making us proud. If this is a sign that Hollywood is finally ready to give opportunity and judge performance based on skill and not on skin color then it is a good thing." This role generated controversy. Her graphic nude love scene with a racist character played by co-star Billy Bob Thornton was the subject of much media chatter and discussion among African Americans. Many in the African-American community were critical of Berry for taking the part. Berry responded: "I don't really see a reason to ever go that far again. That was a unique movie. That scene was special and pivotal and needed to be there, and it would be a really special script that would require something like that again."
Berry asked for a higher fee for Revlon advertisements after winning the Academy Award. Ron Perelman, the cosmetics firm's chief, congratulated her, saying how happy he was that she modeled for his company. She replied, "Of course, you'll have to pay me more." Perelman stalked off in a rage. In accepting her award, she gave an acceptance speech honoring previous black actresses who had never had the opportunity. She said, "This moment is so much bigger than me. This is for every nameless, faceless woman of colour who now has a chance tonight because this door has been opened."
As Bond girl Giacinta 'Jinx' Johnson in the 2002 blockbuster Die Another Day, Berry recreated a scene from Dr. No, emerging from the surf to be greeted by James Bond as Ursula Andress had 40 years earlier. Lindy Hemming, costume designer on Die Another Day, had insisted that Berry wear a bikini and knife as a homage. Berry has said of the scene: "It's splashy", "exciting", "sexy", "provocative" and "it will keep me still out there after winning an Oscar". The bikini scene was shot in Cadiz; the location was reportedly cold and windy, and footage has been released of Berry wrapped in thick towels in between takes to try to stay warm. According to an ITV news poll, Jinx was voted the fourth toughest girl on screen of all time. Berry was hurt during filming when debris from a smoke grenade flew into her eye. It was removed in a 30-minute operation. After Berry won the Academy Award, rewrites were commissioned to give her more screentime for X2.
She starred in the psychological thriller Gothika opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in November 2003, during which she broke her arm in a scene with Downey, who twisted her arm too hard. Production was halted for eight weeks. It was a moderate hit at the United States box office, taking in $60 million; it earned another $80 million abroad. Berry appeared in the nu metal band Limp Bizkit's music video for "Behind Blue Eyes" for the motion picture soundtrack for the film. The same year, she was named #1 in FHM's 100 Sexiest Women in the World poll.
Berry received $12.5 million for the title role in the film Catwoman, a $100 million movie; it grossed $17 million on its first weekend. She was awarded a Worst Actress Razzie Award in 2005 for this role. She appeared at the ceremony to accept the award in person (making her the third person, and second actor, ever to do so) with a sense of humor, considering it an experience of the "rock bottom" in order to be "at the top". Holding the Academy Award in one hand and the Razzie in the other she said, "I never in my life thought that I would be here, winning a Razzie. It's not like I ever aspired to be here, but thank you. When I was a kid, my mother told me that if you could not be a good loser, then there's no way you could be a good winner." The Fund for Animals praised Berry's compassion towards cats and for squelching rumors that she was keeping a Bengal tiger from the sets of Catwoman as a "pet."
Her next film appearance was in the Oprah Winfrey-produced ABC television movie Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005), an adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's novel, in which Berry portrayed Janie Crawford, a free-spirited woman whose unconventional sexual mores upset her 1920s contemporaries in a small community. She was nominated for another Primetime Emmy Award for this TV film. Meanwhile, she voiced the character of Cappy, one of the many mechanical beings in the animated feature Robots (2005).
Berry is involved in production of films and television. She served as executive producer on Introducing Dorothy Dandridge in 1999, and Lackawanna Blues in 2005. In 2007, Berry both produced and starred in the thriller Perfect Stranger with Bruce Willis, and starred in Things We Lost in the Fire with Benicio del Toro, the first film in which she worked with a female director, Danish Susanne Bier, giving her a new feeling of "thinking the same way", which she appreciated. Berry then starred in the film Frankie and Alice, in which she plays Frankie Murdoch, a young multiracial American women with dissociative identity disorder struggling against her alter personality to retain her true self. She was awarded the African-American Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama. Berry was one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood during the 2000s, earning an estimated $10 million per film. On April 3, 2007, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Kodak Theatre at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard for her contributions to the film industry.
As of 2013, Berry's worldwide box office gross has been more than USD$3.3 billion. In 2011, she appeared in New Year's Eve. She played one of the leads in the film Cloud Atlas, which was released in October 2012.
On October 4, 2013, Berry signed on to star in the CBS drama series Extant. Berry played Molly Woods, an astronaut who struggles to reconnect with her husband and android son after spending 13 months in space. The show premiered on July 9, 2014. She served as a co-executive producer on the series. Berry has served for many years as the face of Revlon cosmetics and as the face of Versace. The Coty Inc. fragrance company signed Berry to market her debut fragrance in March 2008. Berry was delighted, saying that she had created her own fragrances at home by mixing scents.
In March 2014 Berry launched a new production company, 606 Films, with producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. It is named after the Anti-Paparazzi Bill, SB 606, that the actress pushed for and which was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown in the fall of 2013. The new company emerged as part of a deal for Berry to star in the CBS sci-fi drama series Extant. 606 Films is housed within CBS.
In February 2000, Berry was involved in a traffic collision and left the scene. She pleaded no contest to misdemeanor leaving the scene of an accident.
Berry dated Chicago dentist John Ronan from March 1989 to October 1991. In November 1993, Ronan sued Berry for $80,000 in what he claimed were unpaid loans to help launch her career. Berry contended that the money was a gift, and a judge dismissed the case because Ronan did not list Berry as a debtor when he filed for bankruptcy in 1992. According to Berry, a beating from a former abusive boyfriend during the filming of The Last Boy Scout punctured her eardrum and caused her to lose eighty percent of her hearing in her left ear. Berry has never named the abuser but has said that he is someone well known in Hollywood.
Berry first saw baseball player David Justice on TV playing in an MTV celebrity baseball game in February 1992. When a reporter from Justice's hometown of Cincinnati told her that Justice was a fan, Berry gave her phone number to the reporter to give to Justice. Berry married Justice shortly after midnight on January 1, 1993. Following their separation in February 1996, Berry stated publicly that she was so depressed that she considered taking her own life. Berry and Justice were officially divorced on June 24, 1997.
Berry married her second husband, singer-songwriter Eric Benét, on January 24, 2001, following a two-year courtship, but by early October 2003 they had separated, with the divorce finalized on January 3, 2005. Benét underwent treatment for sex addiction in 2002. In November 2005, Berry began dating French Canadian model Gabriel Aubry, whom she met at a Versace photoshoot. Berry gave birth to their daughter in March 2008. On April 30, 2010, Berry and Aubry announced their separation.
After their 2010 separation, Berry and Aubry became involved in a highly publicized custody battle, centered primarily on Berry's desire to move with their daughter from Los Angeles, where Berry and Aubry resided, to France, the home of French actor Olivier Martinez, whom Berry had started dating in 2010 after they met while filming Dark Tide in South Africa. Aubry objected to the move on the grounds that it would interfere with their joint custody arrangement. In November 2012, a judge denied Berry's request to move the couple's daughter to France in light of Aubry's objections. Less than two weeks later, on November 22, 2012, Aubry and Martinez were both treated at a hospital for injuries after engaging in a physical altercation at Berry's residence. Martinez performed a citizen's arrest on Aubry, and because it was considered a domestic violence incident, was granted a temporary emergency protective order preventing Aubry from coming within 100 yards of Berry, Martinez, and the child with whom he shares custody with Berry, until November 29, 2012. In turn, Aubry obtained a temporary restraining order against Martinez on November 26, 2012, asserting that the fight began when Martinez threatened to kill Aubry if he did not allow the couple to move to France. Leaked court documents included photos showing significant injuries to Aubry's face, which were widely displayed in the media.
On November 29, 2012, Berry's lawyer announced that Berry and Aubry had reached an amicable custody agreement in court. In June 2014, a Superior Court ruling called for Berry to pay Aubry $16,000 a month in child support (around 200k/year) as well as a retroactive payment of $115,000 and a sum of $300,000 for Aubry's attorney fees. Berry and Martinez confirmed their engagement in March 2012, and married in France on July 13, 2013. In October 2013, Berry gave birth to their son. After two years of marriage, in 2015 the couple announced they were divorcing. The divorce became final in December 2016.
Along with Pierce Brosnan, Cindy Crawford, Jane Seymour, Dick Van Dyke, Téa Leoni, and Daryl Hannah, Berry successfully fought in 2006 against the Cabrillo Port Liquefied Natural Gas facility that was proposed off the coast of Malibu. Berry said, "I care about the air we breathe, I care about the marine life and the ecosystem of the ocean." In May 2007, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the facility. Hasty Pudding Theatricals gave her its 2006 Woman of The Year award. Berry took part in a nearly 2,000-house cell-phone bank campaign for Barack Obama in February 2008. In April 2013, she appeared in a video clip for Gucci's "Chime for Change" campaign that aims to raise funds and awareness of women's issues in terms of education, health, and justice. In August 2013, Berry testified alongside Jennifer Garner before the California State Assembly's Judiciary Committee in support of a bill that would protect celebrities' children from harassment by photographers. The bill passed in September.
Berry was ranked No. 1 on People's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" list in 2003 after making the top ten seven times and appeared No. 1 on FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World" the same year. She was named Esquire magazine's "Sexiest Woman Alive" in October 2008, about which she stated: "I don't know exactly what it means, but being 42 and having just had a baby, I think I'll take it." Men's Health ranked her at No. 35 on their "100 Hottest Women of All-Time" list. In 2009, she was voted #23 on Empire's 100 Sexiest Film Stars. The same year, rapper Hurricane Chris released a song entitled "Halle Berry (She's Fine)", extolling Berry's beauty and sex appeal. At the age of 42 (in 2008), she was named the “Sexiest Black Woman” by Access Hollywood’s TV One Access survey. Born to an African-American father and a white mother, Berry has stated that her biracial background was "painful and confusing" when she was a young woman, and she made the decision early on to identify as a black woman because she knew that was how she would be perceived.