In 2002, Berry, now 54, won the Academy Award for best actress for the film "Monster's Ball," making her the first Black woman to win the award. She remains the only Black woman to have achieved the honor.
In an interview with Variety, the star reflected on the massive win and what has come since, including a deficit of role offers.
“I think it’s largely because there was no place for someone like me,” Berry said. “I thought, ‘Oh, all these great scripts are going to come my way; these great directors are going to be banging on my door.’ It didn’t happen. It actually got a little harder. They call it the Oscar curse. You’re expected to turn in award-worthy performances.”
Halle Berry made history in 2002 by becoming the first Black woman to win the Oscar for best actress in a leading role for her performance in ‘Monster’s Ball.’ (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Nearly two decades after accepting the award, the star is astonished that no other Black woman has matched her accomplishment.
"I thought Cynthia [Erivo, the star of ‘Harriet’] was going to do it last year. I thought Ruth [Negga, nominated for 2016’s ‘Loving’] had a really good shot at it too," she reflected. "I thought there were women that rightfully, arguably, could have, should have. I hoped they would have, but why it hasn’t gone that way, I don’t have the answer."
These days, Berry is left wondering just how meaningful her win was after all.
"It’s one of my biggest heartbreaks,” she admitted. "The morning after, I thought, 'Wow, I was chosen to open a door.' And then, to have no one … I question, 'Was that an important moment, or was it just an important moment for me?' I wanted to believe it was so much bigger than me. It felt so much bigger than me, mainly because I knew others should have been there before me and they weren’t."
However, the leading role in the movie "Catwoman" came her way eventually, but that's now regarded as one of Hollywood's cringiest projects in recent years, earning Berry a Razzie Award for worst actress. The picture wracked up three other Razzie wins and three more nominations.
Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton in a scene from the film ‘Monster’s Ball.’ (Getty Images)
"I thought, ‘This is a great chance for a woman of color to be a superhero. Why wouldn’t I try this?" she remembered.
Despite the opportunity, Berry said she felt "the story didn’t feel quite right."
"I remember having that argument: 'Why can’t Catwoman save the world like Batman and Superman do? Why is she just saving women from a face cream that cracks their face off?'" said the star. "But I was just the actor for hire. I wasn’t the director. I had very little say over that."
Nowadays, she's taking charge in a new way with her film "Bruised," which not only sees her in the lead role but in the director's chair as well.
When she first heard of the film, director Nick Cassavetes was attached and Blake Lively was to star, but Berry desperately wanted to sink her teeth in.
“I’m tortured, because now I can’t let it go,” she remembered feeling while waiting for the film to free up. “I’ve been thinking of how I can reimagine it for someone like me, a Black woman in middle age — not starting life — who’s looking for a last chance, not another chance. I’m stuck on it.”
Halle Berry will next appear in ‘Bruised,’ which she also directed. The pictured debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival this month. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Berry then pitched herself to play Jackie, a mixed-martial arts fighter who reinvigorates her career.
“Why not a Black woman?” she thought. “It’s an old genre; there’s so many great fight films that have been made. I made the point why it would be worth retelling an age-old story with this new twist.”
Eventually, she was also given the position of director, and she's finding validation in the job.
“As an actor, I always show up and do my part, and I can only do what I can do,” Berry said. “Being the director, I have a part in the totality of every department. I get to have a voice. That was different, and I really loved that.”