Though today Halle Berry is one of Hollywood’s most sought after actors, in a new interview with W Magazine, the 50-year-old explained how she was often “discounted as an actor” due to her good looks.
“I came from the world of beauty pageants and modeling and right away when people heard that I got discounted as an actor,” Berry told the publication. “So, I had the job of trying to eliminate that part of my persona, and Spike [Lee] gave me a chance to do that. And I took on roles early on that really didn’t rely on my physical self at all and that was a good way to sort of get some credibility within my industry.”
In fact, according to Berry, she had to beg to take on the less glamorous role of a drug addict, Vivian, in Lee’s 1991 Jungle Fever, after the director initially wanted to cast her opposite Wesley Snipes as his lovely wife.
“Spike wanted me to read for the part of [Snipe’s] wife and I read that part fine enough, but then I said to Spike, ‘You know I really am eyeing this crack h- role, can you please let me audition for that?’ ” the Oscar-winner recalled. “And he said, ‘No, no I don’t see you as the crack h-.’ I said, ‘I am the crack h-. Really deep down I’m the crack h-!’ And he was like, ‘No, I don’t see it.’ And I said, ‘Let me go in the bathroom, wash all this makeup off; you will see I am the crack h-.’
“So, he let me do that and I came back out and I got to read the crack h-, and I got the part of the of the crack h-. And it was an amazing way to start my career, playing a crack h- directed by Spike Lee. It was major for me.”
The Revlon spokeswoman would go on to play the troubled wife of a convicted murderer in 2001’s Monster’s Ball, for which she took home an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. However, according to the former “Extant” star she had to fight for the opportunity to read for the role. “With Monster’s Ball, Lee Daniels didn’t want to see me read,” she said. “He was actually disgusted by the thought. He thought there’s no way and my argument to him was, ‘Just because someone looks a certain way doesn’t mean that they are spared adversity. Adversity does not discriminate.’ … He ultimately gave me a chance and that sort of changed the course of my career in so many ways.”
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