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Halle Maria Berry was born on the 14th of August, 1968 (though some insist it was 1966), in Cleveland, Ohio. She was named after the town's Halle Building, which originally housed the Halle Brothers department store but is now an office block (it's also used in the Drew Carey Show). Her father, Jerome, an African Ameri ... read full biography

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 Halle Berry Biography

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Halle Maria Berry was born on the 14th of August, 1968 (though some insist it was 1966), in Cleveland, Ohio. She was named after the town's Halle Building, which originally housed the Halle Brothers department store but is now an office block (it's also used in the Drew Carey Show). Her father, Jerome, an African American and a hospital attendant by trade, left when she was just four, so she and her elder sister Heidi were raised by their Caucasian, Liverpool-born mother, Judith, herself a nurse in a psychiatric ward. Jerome would return after four years but the violence he directed towards Judith and Heidi meant that he did not stay for long. Throughout her adult life, Halle Would have no contact with him at all, still being estranged when Jerome died in 2003.

Halle's first few years were spent in a black neighbourhood of Cleveland. Here her fair complexion made her stand out, but not as much as she did when her mother moved them out of the inner-city to a mainly white suburb. Now, a little older and in this conservative milieu, her "difference" was not so readily tolerated. "I'm black," she said later. "I realised very early in my life that I wasn't going to be this mulatto stuck in the middle, not knowing if I'm black or white".

To overcome these racial difficulties, Halle threw herself into school activities at Bedford High and tried to make friends. She did well. She was in the Honour Society, a cheerleader, class president, and an editor on the school newspaper. And, naturally, she was Prom Queen. At least, she was joint Prom Queen. Having won outright, she was accused of voting irregularities and (guess what?) forced to share her title with a WASP.

Elsewhere, she was a clear winner. Her looks drew her towards beauty contests and, by 1983, she was Miss Teen Ohio. From here she became Miss Teen All-American, and Miss Ohio, then was runner-up in the Miss USA contest, a placing that saw her entered into the Miss World competition - she was the first African-American to do so. She didn't win, but she did make enough money from modelling to return to Cleveland and enrol at the Cuyahoga Community College where she studied broadcast journalism.

Halle Berry was also looking for TV work where she could find it and, in 1991, scored a part as Debbie Porter in the Dallas spin-off Knot's Landing, which had featured such luminaries as Alec Baldwin, Kirsty Swanson and even Ava Gardner. But film roles took precedence and next, again alongside Jackson, she played the love interest in the buddy-comedy Strictly Business. Here she was a cool club promoter who spurns the advances of a dull black stockbroker. He then turns to a dude in the mail-room to help him learn to be more impressive. A kind of My Fair Nigga - know what I'm sayin'? Halle's part did not come without a struggle. She was discarded by the original director for not being black enough, then was re-instated when the director himself was replaced.

Next came a hot role in a great movie. In The Last Boy Scout, she played the exotic girlfriend of Damon Wayans, a footballer who, aided by Bruce Willis, is drawn into a dangerous struggle with corporate gangsters. For research this time, Halle danced for real in a Hollywood strip club, and put in an excellent, if short, performance.

Determined not to be viewed as mere eye candy, Halle now took the lead in the TV miniseries Queen by Roots-writer Alex Haley. Here she played the title role in the true story of Haley's own grandmother, as she struggled on the tobacco plantations in the days immediately prior to the end of slavery. Fathered by a white slave master, Queen struggles to understand her own identity and to find love in a harsh world. Co-starring Ann-Margret, Martin Sheen and Danny Glover, the show was an epic and a great success.

For a couple of years, her career went downhill - probably due to the savage break-up of her marriage and the ensuing press furore. She was the Queen of Sheba to Jimmy Smits' Solomon in a TV remake of the Yul Brynner/Gina Lollobrigida classic. Then there was an unimportant (read Female) part in the Kurt Russell/Steven Seagal roustabout Executive Decision, about terrorists seizing an aircraft. Next there was The Rich Man's Wife, a poor noir thriller where she played an unhappy spouse who tells stranger Clive Owen she wishes her husband were dead. When he soon is, she begins to fear that she's set something terrible in motion. Worse still was BAPs where she played one of two desperately tacky Southern waitresses who, hoping to launch their own restaurant-come-hairdressers, seek their fortune in LA where Berry winds up trying to kid millionaire Martin Landau that she's his former lover's grand-daughter. Meanwhile, Landau's butler teaches her and her friend how to be ladies. Doesn't sound very promising, does it? No.

Now, with the Justice affair behind her, things began to change. First came miniseries The Wedding , another racially motivated movie, this time asking whether Berry should marry a white jazz musician or do the proper thing and wed a black man. Then came the comeback, and in the strangest possible way. In Bulworth, Warren Beatty played a suicidal senator who organises a hit on himself and decides to spend his last hours telling the truth to the people. Down in South Central, he meets street-smart Berry who thinks his honesty is another political con-job, but gradually comes to fall for his bizarre integrity, as does the rest of the nation. It's an appalling film on so many levels. That Berry should fall for the wrinkled Beatty was absurd, but that wasn't a patch on Beatty's skin-crawlingly embarrassing attempts at rapping. Yet somehow Berry shone - and all the more so because she was surrounded by such awestriking ineptitude.

Now back in the minds of Hollywood's powerbrokers, she cemented her position with two smaller but infinitely more worthy projects. First came Why Do Fools Fall In Love where she played one of three women claiming to be the widow of singer Frankie Lymon and battling for his estate. Then, in 1999, there was Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, executively produced by Berry herself. Dandridge was the first black actress to be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar - for Carmen Jones. The film followed her from her early days on the club circuit, through her screen career, her affair with Otto Preminger, her troubles with racists (in one hotel they emptied the pool and scrubbed it after she put her foot in it), and on to her sad death from an overdose. Co-incidentally, Dandridge was born in the same Cleveland hospital as Halle Berry.

Halle Berry was terrific in the role, winning both an Emmy and a Golden Globe. She was back - her disappointment at turning down the Sandra Bullock role in Speed now a distant memory. And, at last, she had a stable relationship, in 1999 having got engaged to Eric Benet. Benet was a successful musician, signed to WEA - his A Day In The Life album would go Gold. He had been married too, but his wife had died in a car crash, leaving him to care for daughter India (born in 1992). He needed Berry as much as she needed him (maybe more after he appeared in Mariah Carey's disastrous Glitter), and they were married in January 2001. However, the relationship would quickly turn sour. Berry would rail at newspapers for making up stories about Benet's affairs, but eventually he admitted that it was all true. Trying to keep the marriage together, she helped him combat his sex addiction, took him to counselling, but it was all to no avail. They'd separate in October 2003 and she'd file for divorce, a situation complicated when Benet, whose career had gone downhill, tried to have their pre-nuptial agreement annulled. By this time Berry was, after all, one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood.

Though she continued to suffer from diabetes, a condition she discovered when she collapsed on-set while filming Living Dolls, Halle's career remained on the up. She appeared in ads for Revlon, M&Ms and Pepsi Twist. And she won the part of Jinx in the 20th James Bond instalment, Die Another Day. As the only Oscar winner to play a Bond girl (she won during filming, Kim Basinger won 14 years after Never Say Never Again) it was fitting that she should bring something new to the franchise, Jinx being a dab-hand with a double-entendre but also a very competent agent, planting bombs and diving from great heights. Sure, she was glamorous, echoing Ursula Andress in Dr No when she rose from the sea in a very skimpy bikini, complete with diving knife, but with Jinx and Bond side-by-side it was almost a buddy movie.

Next, she played Storm again, in X-Men 2 - she turned down Ben Affleck's Gigli to do so, being replaced by Jennifer Lopez. Here, renegade mutant Nightcrawler has attacked the White House in order to turn the authorities against the mutants and general Brian Cox is after them all, Storm at one point creating tornados to save her friends in an aerial pursuit. It was another massive success, smashing the $200 million barrier. And there'd be another hit immediately with Gothika, with Berry headlining and dominating the poster. Here she was Miranda Grey, a prison psychiatrist who suffers a car crash and wakes up in the prison, accused of murdering her husband and unable to remember a thing. Trapped in this Dickensian establishment, where Robert Downey Jr was a fellow pschiatrist and Penelope Cruz a former patient and now an inmate, she must struggle for her freedom and her sanity. Such was her current pulling power that only The Cat In The Hat kept Gothika from the number one spot. The success made up for the broken arm she received in an on-screen struggle with Downey, an injury that halted production for 8 weeks.

Now came Catwoman, the beginning of a hoped-for franchise based on the success of Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, Pfeiffer herself having turned the part down because the suit was too uncomfortable. Ashley Judd would also pass it up, preferring to work on Broadway in the infinitely more serious Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Using the rather spurious logic that the character has nine completely separate lives, the makers decided to forget all that Selena Kyle stuff and consider instead the story of Patience Phillips, a shy and sensitive graphic designer working for the ruthless Hedare Beauty Cosmetics company, run by Sharon Stone (remember Berry's character in The Flintstones?). The company are about to launch a revolutionary new anti-aging product, Phillips stumbles onto the dark secret behind it then becomes Catwoman after an encounter with an Egyptian Mau. Pursuing her would be besotted detective Benjamin Bratt as she sought revenge against criminals in general and Stone in particular. It was another tough shoot, with failed stunts sending Berry to hospital yet again, and it did not test well, re-shoots being required just a month before release.

Naturally, there would be X-Men 3 and, with Berry now such a big star, Storm would be given a far more vital role. She was constantly newsworthy, one story involving her successful attempt to prevent ex-Navy SEAL Greg Broussard from stalking her (he believed they were engaged - the nutjob).

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