A woman whose combination of talent, tenacity, and beauty has made her one of Hollywood's busiest actors, Halle Berry has enjoyed a level of success that has come from years of hard work and her share of career pitfalls.
Berry's interest in show business came courtesy of her participation in a number of beauty pageants throughout her teens, including the 1986 Miss U.S.A. Pageant. A native of Cleveland, OH, where she was born to an African-American father and white mother on August 14, 1968, Berry was raised by her mother, a psychiatric nurse, following her parents' divorce. At the age of 17, she appeared in the spotlight for the first time as the winner of the Miss Teen All-American Pageant, and subsequently became a model. Berry won her first professional acting gig on the TV series Living Dolls, and then appeared on Knots Landing before winning her first big-screen role in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. It was on the set of the film that she first earned her reputation for her full commitment to acting, reportedly refusing to bathe for weeks in preparation for her portrayal of a crack addict.
Following her film debut, Berry was cast opposite Eddie Murphy in Boomerang (1992) as the comedian's love interest; not only did she hold her own against Murphy, but the same year she did acclaimed work in the title role of the Alex Haley miniseries Queen, playing a young woman struggling against the brutal conditions of slavery.
After a comedic turn as sultry secretary Sharon Stone in the 1994 live-action version of The Flintstones, Berry returned to more serious fare with her role in the adoption drama Losing Isaiah (1995). Starring opposite Jessica Lange as a former crack addict battling to win custody of her child, who as a baby was adopted by an affluent white couple, Berry earned a mixed reception from critics, some of whom noted that her scenes with Lange highlighted Berry's own shortcomings.
However, critical opinion of the actress' work was overwhelmingly favorable in 1998, when she starred as a street smart young woman who comes to the aid of a bumbling politician in Warren Beatty's Bullworth. The following year, Berry won even greater acclaim -- and an Emmy and Golden Globe -- for her turn as tragic screen siren Dorothy Dandridge in the made-for-cable Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Unfortunately, any acclaim Berry enjoyed was overshadowed by her widely publicized brush with the law in February of 2000, when she allegedly ran a red light, slammed into another car, and then left the scene of the accident. The actress, who suffered a gash to her forehead (the driver of the other car sustained a broken wrist), was booked in a misdemeanor court in early April of that year.
Fortunately for Berry, her subsequent onscreen work removed the spotlight from her legal troubles; that same year, she starred as Storm in Bryan Singer's hugely successful adaptation of The X-Men. The film was a box office hit, but her next popcorn flick, the thriller Swordfish, which touted itself as the first movie to feature Berry baring her breasts, had a less impressive reception.
Berry again bared more than her character's inner turmoil in Monster's Ball (2001), a romantic drama directed by Marc Forster that starred the actress as a woman who becomes involved with an ex-prison-guard (Billy Bob Thornton) who oversaw the prison execution of her husband (Sean Combs). Berry earned wide critical praise for her work in the film, as well as Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Actress. And though she may have lost out to Sissy Spacek in the Golden Globes, her night at the Oscars found Berry the favored performer as took home a statue for Best Actress. A momentous footnote in Academy Award history, Berry's win marked the first time an African American had been bestowed that particular honor.
Although her turn in the James Bond flick Die Another Day was so successful that talk began of a spin-off film, Berry's first true post-Oscar vehicle Gothika proved to be unpopular with both critics and moviegoers. Luckily, 2003 wasn't a total loss for her though as X2: X-Men United was a box-office smash and was regarded by many to be superior to its predecessor. Sticking with comic-books as source-material, Berry could be seen in Catwoman the following Summer. The film was the biggest flop of her career, panned by audiences and critics, and earning the actress a coveted Razzie for her terrible performance. She won back a great deal of respect, however, by starring in the made for TV adaptation of the Zora Neale Hurston novel Their Eyes Were Watching God the next year. She followed this moving performance with a return to her X-Men comrades for X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006, then signed on to star alongside a decidedly creepy Bruce Willis in the suspense thriller Perfect Stranger (2007), directed by James Foley.
As the 2010's unfolded, Berry continued to enjoy top-tier status as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, taking on roles in films like Things We Lost in the Fire, Dark Tide, Cloud Atlas, and The Call. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi