In 2002, Halle Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the film “Monster’s Ball,” becoming the first and only black actress to date to win the award for a leading role. During her famous, tearful acceptance speech, she said “This moment is for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance because tonight this door has been opened.” Her pronouncement hasn't quite proven true as of yet for other actors and actresses in leading roles, but even more notably, it hasn't proven true for herself. For an actress who was once on top of the world and among the most highly paid female performers anywhere, the last decade can’t be considered anything but a cinematic mess.
Case in point: 10 years after “Monsters Ball,” Halle Berry was reduced to doing killer shark movies. The film, last year’s “Dark Tide,” didn’t even receive a wide theatrical release, despite costing $25 million to make. It recouped roughly 4 percent of that budget in theaters and holds a perfect 0 percent “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. This movie stars a former Oscar winner for Best Actress. We must ask: How did it come to this for Halle Berry?
The answer is “gradually.” These things don’t just happen overnight. For a decade, Berry has worked sporadically, with starring roles in films that can usually be sorted into three categories: “Bad,” “Schlocky” and “Ignored.” It started right away, immediately after “Monster’s Ball.” Her first major role following it was Giancita “Jinx” Johnson in “Die Another Day,” the last James Bond film of the Pierce Brosnan era. After being eye candy in what is generally considered the worst of the Brosnan series, she proceeded to star in the psychological horror-thriller “Gothika,” which was savaged by critics to the tune of a 15 percent “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes today.
Clearly, at this point, Berry needed something to turn things around. “I know,” she presumably thought. “Superheroes. People love superheroes.”
The result, of course, was “Catwoman,” a flop so notorious that it set back the entire superhero film genre until the arrival of Christopher Nolan and “Batman Begins.” Displaying that she was at least a good sport about the whole mess, Berry personally appeared at the Razzie Awards to accept her award for “Worst Actress.” In her speech, she called the award “rock bottom,” but this may have been wishful thinking on her part. Since that role in 2004, she has appeared in leading roles in the following films:
- “Perfect Stranger”
- “Things We Lost in the Fire”
- “Frankie and Alice”
- “Dark Tide”
- “Cloud Atlas”
- “Movie 43”
- “The Call”
To begin with, how many of those actually ring a bell to you? I’m guessing one or two, if only because they came out recently. But how good or bad were these films? Well, the average Rotten Tomatoes score of all seven averaged together is 28 percent. Which is to say, not a heartening number. And this is doing her a favor by not including the numbers from “Catwoman” and “Gothika.” In fact, among everything she’s had a leading role in since “Catwoman,” only “Cloud Atlas” and “Things We Lost in the Fire” have ratings higher than 40 percent, and neither of those films made a profit in the U.S. These are just brutal numbers, any way you look at them.
So what are the reasons? Poor selection of roles and opportunities has got to be one of them. Nobody who looked closely at that “Catwoman” script could possibly have thought it was going to be a good idea. And Berry certainly has shown herself not to be above appearances in purely cheesecake roles, as she did in “Die Another Day.” You certainly can’t fault her for being a gorgeous woman, but there may have been better ways to follow up a history-making Best Actress win than getting into a bikini to frolic in the surf with James Bond. Or you know, getting in a bikini once again for “Dark Tide.”
One has to imagine that micro-budget dramas, terrible thrillers and freaking SHARK MOVIES were not the fare that Berry expected she would spend her next decade working on while standing there, clutching that Oscar. In all actuality, she probably had every right to be thinking “This is my first Academy Award, and the sky is the limit,” but clearly, things haven’t worked out that way.
Of course, it’s not too late for Halle Berry. At 47, she’s still a beautiful actress, although beginning to make that difficult transition to older female roles in Hollywood, which isn’t easy for anyone. Still, there’s nothing to stop her from getting cast in a few well-regarded dramas and working her way up the ladder of prestige again, unless a director doesn’t want “Catwoman” stigma all over him. But it’s certainly not going to happen with shark movies, or anything coming out of WWE Studios. “Sharknado 2: The Next One” shouldn’t be the bar an Oscar winner is shooting for.
All in all, it’s a fascinating reminder of just how fast and how far a performer can fall.