Who Is Halle Berry?
Halle Berry is an acclaimed actress and former beauty queen. For her performance in Monster's Ball in 2001, she became the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for best actress. She has also enjoyed prominent roles in Jungle Fever (1991), X-Men (2000) and its sequels, Swordfish (2001), Die Another Day (2002), Gothika (2003), Cloud Atlas (2012) and Kidnap (2017).
Halle Maria Berry was born on August 14, 1966, in Cleveland, Ohio, the youngest daughter born to Jerome and Judith Berry, an interracial couple. Halle and her older sister, Heidi, spent the first few years of their childhood living in an inner-city neighborhood.
In the early 1970s, Jerome Berry abandoned his wife and children, after which Judith moved her family to the predominantly white Cleveland suburb of Bedford.
Berry attended a nearly all-white public school, and as a result was subjected to discrimination at an early age. Her early bouts with racism greatly influenced her desire to excel.
Throughout high school, the determined teen participated in a dizzying array of extracurricular activities, holding positions of newspaper editor, class president and head cheerleader.
Beauty Queen to Model
A natural performer, Berry earned a handful of beauty pageant titles during the early 1980s, including Miss Teen Ohio and Miss Teen America. She was eventually awarded first runner-up in the 1985 Miss U.S.A. competition.
For a short time she attended Cleveland's Cuyahoga Community College, where she studied broadcast journalism. However, Berry abandoned her idea of a career in news reporting before receiving her degree.
Choosing to wholeheartedly devote her time to a career in entertainment, Berry first moved to Chicago and then to New York City, where she found work as a catalog model.
Halle Berry Movies and TV Shows
Early Roles: 'Living Dolls,' 'Knots Landing,' 'Jungle Fever'
As the 1980s turned into the '90s, the aspiring actress began a career in television with a role on the short-lived sitcom Living Dolls (1989), followed by a year-long run on the CBS prime-time drama Knots Landing, in 1991.
'The Last Boy Scout,' 'Boomerang,' 'The Flintstones'
More substantial supporting roles followed, including that of a stripper in the action-thriller The Last Boy Scout (1991), starring Bruce Willis, and as the woman who finally wins the heart of Eddie Murphy in the romantic comedy Boomerang (1992).
With a few films under her belt, Berry accepted more offbeat roles, making cameos in the rockumentary CB4 (1993), which traced the rise and fall of a rap group by the same name. In 1994, the live-action version of The Flintstones featured Berry as a Stone-Age seductress.
Berry offered a no-holds-barred performance as a rehabilitated crack addict seeking to regain custody of her son in Losing Isaiah (1995). Berry, who played opposite Jessica Lange and David Strathairn, was noted for her believable portrayal of a mother struggling with addiction and loss.
Later that year, Berry overcame Hollywood's racial barriers when she was cast as the first African American to play the Queen of Sheba, in the Showtime movie Solomon & Sheba.
Leading Lady: 'Executive Decision,' 'Bulworth,' 'Introducing Dorothy Dandridge'
Berry's acting credits the next year included two 1996 crime thrillers: The Rich Man's Wife, and Executive Decision. The latter film marked Berry's first leading role in a feature.
In 1998, she took a turn as one of three wives laying claim to Frankie Lyman's estate in the biographical drama Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, and then played a liberal urban youth in the political satire Bulworth, opposite Hollywood veteran Warren Beatty.
In 1999, Berry released her most passionate project to date, co-producing and starring in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, an HBO biopic. Berry was noted for her striking resemblance to the late Dorothy Dandridge, and for her engaging depiction of the actress' struggle to succeed in the racially biased industry of 1950s Hollywood.
Berry earned both a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Television Movie for her role.
Playing Storm in the 'X-Men' Franchise
Berry continued to star in blockbuster hits, including X-Men (2000), the big-budget screen adaptation of the long-running Marvel Comic. In the highly anticipated summer release, Berry's character, Storm, teamed up with fellow mutant heroes played by Anna Paquin and Patrick Stewart. She reprised her role as Storm in X2 (2003), X-Men: The Final Stand (2006) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).
Academy Award for 'Monster's Ball'
Berry garnered the most positive critical notice of her film career in the 2001 dark drama Monster's Ball. Berry played the wife of a death row prisoner (Sean "Puffy" Combs) who becomes romantically involved with a racist prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton).
The role earned Berry a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a drama as well as the Academy Award for best actress. In her emotional acceptance speech, Berry acknowledged the honor of becoming the first African American woman to win the Oscar for best actress by thanking all the performers who came before her.
'Swordfish,' 'Die Another Day, 'Catwoman'
Also in 2001, Berry co-starred with John Travolta in the action movie Swordfish. Audiences did not respond positively to the film, and publicity for the movie centered mostly around Berry's topless scene, for which the actress was allegedly paid a $500,000 bonus.
In 2002, Berry joined the ranks of the legendary "Bond Girls" as the character Jinx in the hit James Bond spy adventure Die Another Day.
She then starred in the horror flick Gothika (2003), which drew mostly tepid reviews but fared well at the box office. However, her talents did little to save the adaptation of DC Comics' Catwoman (2004), a commercial and critical flop.
'Their Eyes Were Watching God,' 'Perfect Stranger,' 'Cloud Atlas'
In 2005, Berry took the lead in the TV adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's classic 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, which was produced by Oprah Winfrey's production company, Harpo. She also lent her voice for the CGI cartoon project, Robots.
In 2007, the actress starred in the heart-racing thriller Perfect Stranger, alongside Willis. Following a series of smaller films, she reemerged for the Wachowski siblings' Cloud Atlas (2012), playing numerous characters across the time-traveling epic.
'Extant,' 'Kidnap,' 'John Wick'
In July 2014, Berry took to the small screen with a starring role in the CBS sci-fi series Extant. In the Steven Spielberg-produced series, she plays an astronaut who returns to earth pregnant after a 13-month solo space mission.
In 2017, Berry starred in the abduction thriller Kidnap and was among the supporting players in the action-comedy Kingsman: The Golden Circle. In 2019, she co-starred in another action franchise sequel, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, and served as executive producer of the BET series Boomerang, based on her earlier film.
Honors and Controversy
Berry is known as one of the top-drawing actresses in Hollywood, at one point commanding a reported $14 million per film. In April 2007, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Additionally, Berry is widely acknowledged for her beauty. Playboy magazine named her among the "100 Sexiest Women of the Century" in 1998. She's also been on People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" list and was named Esquire magazine's "Sexiest Woman Alive" in 2008.
In February 2000, the actress faced controversy when she was involved in a hit-and-run accident that erupted into a tabloid scandal. After enduring a minor head injury, she claimed that she did not remember leaving the scene. As a result of her actions, she was placed on probation, given community service and fined $13,500.
Berry has a checkered romantic past; she was involved in a stormy relationship with Jungle Fever co-star Wesley Snipes before marrying Atlanta Braves outfielder David Justice in 1993. The couple divorced in 1997, after which time Berry became secretly engaged to R&B musician Eric Benét. She and Benét were married from 2001 to 2005.
During a photoshoot for Versace in November 2005, Berry met her next boyfriend, French-Canadian supermodel Gabriel Aubry. Several months later, Berry confirmed that she and Aubry were expecting their first child together. The couple welcomed a daughter, Nahla Ariela, on March 16, 2008. She and Aubry split in 2010.
Later that year, Berry began dating actor Olivier Martinez. In March 2012, the couple got engaged, and in April 2013, they announced that they were expecting their first child together.
On July 13, 2013, a 46-year-old Berry and 47-year-old Martinez exchanged vows in an intimate ceremony at France's Chateau des Conde. That October, the couple welcomed their first child together, a baby boy, Maceo-Robert. Two years later, the couple announced they were splitting, with the divorce finalized in December 2016.
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