Interview By: Michael Dance
A long time has passed since the first X-Men movie debuted in 2000. Then, Halle Berry was mostly known for her breakout roles in movies like Bulworth and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. But in the following year, everything changed. The combination of her topless turn in Swordfish and her Oscar-winning performance in Monster’s Ball was a one-two punch (or a one-two-three punch, depending on what you’re counting) that turned Berry into a household name. Since then, she’s played everything from a Bond girl to a Robot. Now she’s back for the third movie in the superhero franchise, once again playing the mutant Storm in X-Men: The Last Stand.
In this installment, a cure for the mutant gene has been found, which erupts a controversy in the mutant world: is mutation a “disease” that needs to be cured, or a part of one’s existence? Like the previous films, The Last Stand doesn’t shy away from topics that could easily be interpreted as commentary on the world we live in.
“They’re all sort of living with some sort of struggle, and a lot of it is very internal, trying to find a way to fit into this society,” Berry says of the mutants in the film. “I think that’s what the basis of the comic book is, and that’s what everybody in life deals with, which is why I think this comic book series is so appealing to so many people, and resonates, and hits home, with almost every human being. Because we’ve all been ousted, or isolated, or forced to make tough decisions to accept who we are. And do we change who we are, to benefit our lovers, our friends, our family, society, do we change? Or do we say, do we have the problem or do they have the problem? I think that’s a
Unlike the last two films, in which Storm tended to get swallowed up in a large ensemble, in The Last Stand Berry is proud to say that her character has grown. “I think this time around she actually had a point of view, which was really important to me, and I think important to the character. Because in the comic books she has a definitely point of view. And in this movie, a lot duly thanks to Brettâ€¦you got to understand a little bit more of who she is and what her anger may be all about.”
The Brett she speaks of is of course the new director, Brett Ratner. When Bryan Singer, the director of the first two X-Men films, opted out to direct Superman Returns, Ratner was the one who ended up with the job. He’s known best for the Rush Hour franchise but also helmed the Hannibal thriller Red Dragon.
“I didn’t think they would go forward without Bryan. Because he was such a part of it,” Berry says. “I was really surprised. But, at the same time, when I had my first conversation with Brett, I thought, ‘oh, it’s going to be okay.’”
Berry particularly tributes Ratner to the strengthening of her character. “He was a lover of the comic book, and he felt like, ‘God, what happened to Storm, she’s strong in the comic book, she’s got a voice,’ and so I was surprised, but I was pleasantly surprised. Because I know it’s an ensemble and there are lots of characters, but I always wanted for herâ€¦to just have her have something to say that was really meaningful.”
And aside from championing her character, how well did Ratner inherit the director’s chair?
“Brett’s like five. Literally, he’s like five years old, and he loves movies, and he loves people, and he loves actors, and he loves the whole process, and
A strong opinion wasn’t the only thing Berry enjoyed on the set. Storm also participates in some heavy-duty fight scenes. “I think that’s probably my favorite part, the physicality, getting in there, doing my own stunts, and trying to do them all,” she says. “And I had to do a lot of spinning this time.”
Spinning? “We’re hooked up to a little spinning rig, where I stand there, and I’m on a plate that’s spinning,” she explains. “I got dizzy, a little sick. The crew got a present one day.” She begins to laugh. “Spinning and vomiting makes for an upset crew, if you can put two and two together.”
Any other mishaps? “No injuries,” Berry proudly declares. “That’s always reported, I always get hurt, [but] I have no injuries on this movie, not one!”
Berry may play characters that control the weather and get seduced by James Bond, but there’s no doubt that she sees her job as an opportunity to develop projects beyond mega-budgeted spectacle. In 2005, she exec-produced Lackawanna Blues, a movie made for HBO. It ended up winning numerous awards. “I was so thrilled. But I knew it. I knew that that was such a wonderful rich storyâ€¦You never think in terms of awards, but I knew that if we could get it to the screen, and get the money to do it, it would be something that would touch people and would be a wonderful piece. But the awards, who knew that? That was just like the big icing.”
Berry has also started her own production company with the help of her manager, called Bellah Films (Halle B.
And back on the blockbuster frontâ€¦ any chance of an X4? Many fans have worried that the subtitle “The Last Stand” sounds an awful lot like an end. “There’s no real significant talk about it, but I think if this one did well enough to warrant a fourth, I’m sure the studio would certainly be thinking, ‘Okay, the franchise isn’t dead, people still love X-Men, they want to see another one,’ then I think they would. If the fans and the audiences feel like this is good, I’m sure they would probably make another.”
And would Storm be making an appearance? Berry warns that she’s got plenty of projects in the pipeline but remains optimistic. “It’s a franchise that I love and it’s a character that I love,” she reasons. “And now that I actually have a voice in the movie I really love it. So I would.”