- Berry, Halle
▪ 2003American actress Halle Berry made Hollywood history in 2002, becoming the first black woman to win an Academy Award for best actress. Upon accepting the award for her performance in the 2001 film Monster's Ball, Berry delivered an emotional speech during which she proclaimed that the door had finally opened for women of colour hoping to be recognized for their talents as performers. “This moment is so much bigger than me,” she said tearfully. With her Oscar win, Berry had succeeded in establishing herself as one of the biggest stars in the film business.Berry was born on Aug. 14, 1966, in Cleveland, Ohio, to a white mother and an African American father. Although her ambition was to become a journalist, Berry began modeling at the age of 16. After finishing as first runner-up in the 1986 Miss USA pageant, Berry set her sights on a career in acting. She studied improvisation at the Second City comedy theatre in Chicago before moving to New York City to try to get work in television. A regular role on the TV series Living Dolls ensued.Her first major film role was as a drug-addicted prostitute in director Spike Lee's 1991 film Jungle Fever. This led to steady film work throughout the 1990s, including appearances in The Flintstones (1994), Losing Isaiah (1995), Executive Decision (1996), Bulworth (1998), and X-Men (2000). She also won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of the title character in the 1999 made-for-TV film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. The parts did not always come easily, as Berry found that black actresses were often confined to a narrow niche in feature film roles. On one occasion she was turned down for a role as a park ranger because a studio executive was convinced that black park rangers did not exist. Despite her gritty debut screen role in Jungle Fever, Berry also had to fight against the assumption that she was too pretty to play serious parts. Challenging roles eventually came her way, however. In Monster's Ball she played a death-row inmate's former wife who forges an unlikely relationship with a white prison guard who had participated in her ex-husband's execution.Berry's personal life was also not without turmoil. Her much-publicized marriage to professional baseball player David Justice ended in 1997 after three trying years; a former boyfriend once hit her hard enough to cause permanent hearing loss; and in 2000 she was convicted on hit-and-run charges after leaving the scene of a traffic accident. She married jazz musician Eric Benet in 2001. By the end of 2002, she was making headlines again in Hollywood as the new “Bond girl.” The 20th James Bond film, Die Another Day, in which Berry starred opposite Pierce Brosnan, was released in late November.Anthony G. Craine
* * *▪ American actressborn August 14, 1966, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.American film actress, the first African American to win the Academy Award for best actress. She received the honour for her nuanced portrayal of Leticia Musgrove, a down-on-her-luck character in Monster's Ball (2001).Berry was a teenage finalist in national beauty pageants, worked in modeling, and began acting on television in 1989. Film roles in Jungle Fever (1991), directed by Spike Lee (Lee, Spike), and in Boomerang (1992), starring Eddie Murphy (Murphy, Eddie), first brought her notice. She costarred with Jessica Lange in Losing Isaiah (1995), a drama about adoption, before earning acclaim for her portrayal of film star Dorothy Dandridge (Dandridge, Dorothy), the first African American to be nominated for a best actress Oscar, in the television film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999). That performance earned her Emmy and Golden Globe awards. Berry was also cast in action roles in X-Men (2000) and its sequels, Swordfish (2001), and Die Another Day (2002), an installment in the James Bond spy series. Gothika (2003) and Catwoman (2004) were the first films in which she received top billing.
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