HOLLYWOOD A-lister and former Miss World contestant Halle Berry hates seeing herself on the big screen.
That had to change for the American beauty’s latest film Bruised, for not only did she star in the story about mixed martial arts, but it is also her directorial debut.
She is also superhero royalty for her X-Men and Catwoman roles and dazzled in that orange bikini in 2002 Bond flick Die Another Day.
But she revealed: “I never watch myself — except for one time before the press junket because we have to talk about it so I have to know what’s in the movie, and then at the premiere and then never again.
“I never go back and watch. That’s the hardest thing to do. I had to discover how hard that is with my directorial debut. I had to watch myself over and over and over.”
Her role in Bruised, and the directing job, were both hard-earned.
The original screenplay featured a central character very different to the one Halle plays in the Netflix flick, in cinemas now.
But she was so inspired by the script that she decided to make it revolve around an ageing black MMA fighter called Jackie Justice, whose fight skills are on the wane.
She then strong-armed producers into agreeing to let her direct it.
Halle said: “In the script, Jackie Justice was a 25-year-old white Irish Catholic woman so I had to convince our producers I could reimagine the story for someone that looked like me.
“Then they said, ‘Now go out and find a director’. So I went out and tried to find a director. I talked to many women because I was determined it had to be a female filmmaker to tell this story.
“But the filmmakers I spoke to didn’t see the story I saw in my head — they couldn’t quite understand all the elements. They weren’t fight fans and they’d shy away from that.
“Some of them didn’t want to go as hard-hitting and deal with some of these subjects the way I was wanting to and needing to.
“So I finally went home one night and was pretty distraught because I thought, ‘Oh God, I can’t seem to get a filmmaker to make this story’. ”
Finally a friend suggested Halle should take on the job herself.
So she spoke to the producers — and they decided to gamble on her.
Halle also told how becoming a mum — to daughter Nahla, 13, and seven-year-old son Maceo — had transformed her life for the better.
She has Nahla from her relationship with Canadian model Gabriel Aubry between 2005 and 2010, and Maceo by her third husband, French actor Oliver Martinez, who she married in 2013 but separated from in 2016.
Halle, who was also married to US baseball star David Justice from 1993 until 1997 and American R&B singer Eric Benet between 2001 and 2005, is now dating US singer-songwriter Van Hunt, 51.
Halle says she is attracted to film roles that reflect her troubled past.
Her parents divorced when she was four and, ever since, she has been estranged from her dad — who she claims was abusive.
I’m always most drawn to characters that are fractured and broken, who are fighting to survive — the underdog or misunderstood character, the dark horse character in the race.
Halle said: “I’m always most drawn to characters that are fractured and broken, who are fighting to survive — the underdog or misunderstood character, the dark horse character in the race.
In many ways it probably speaks to some of my own broken-ness and life experience.”
Bruised was tough, too, in a physical way.
Halle was left black and blue by brutal training with co-star Valentina Shevchenko, 33, a Peruvian-Kyrgyzstani pro MMA fighter who plays Jackie Justice’s rival Lady Killer.
Halle even broke a rib in filming but refused to rest up.
She said: “I was like, ‘Nah, we’ve gotta keep going’. I was training four or five hours every day, early in the morning, and then our fight co-ordinator would say, ‘Take today off, rest’.
“And I would say, ‘No, no, no, I have my director job all day’, which was scouting and all the things we have to do. That became the second part of my day. I don’t know how I did it. I was on adrenaline, I was on a high.”
But Halle is no stranger to hard graft after working her way up from humble beginnings, even once sleeping in a hostel for the homeless.
She was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in America’s Midwest.
Her mum Judith was a white English migrant from Liverpool, and a psychiatric nurse.
Her African-American dad, Jerome, worked in the same hospital as a psychiatric ward attendant and later as a bus driver.
Despite her parents’ split and the trouble with her dad, Halle excelled at school, where she was also a cheerleader and competed in beauty pageants — eventually becoming the first African-American to take part in Miss World, finishing sixth in 1986.
Three years later, aged 23, she moved to New York to pursue her dreams but briefly lived in a homeless shelter when cash ran out.
Her first film role was in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever in 1991, playing a New York drug addict.
I had to be strong to survive, and not only survive but thrive in an industry that really had no place for me when I started.
But Hollywood refused to take her seriously at first.
She had to work hard to show she “could be seen as more than just a pretty face, a model turned actor”.
Halle said: “I had to be strong to survive, and not only survive but thrive in an industry that really had no place for me when I started.”
But thrive she did.
Her Oscar-winning performance in Monster’s Ball saw her play the wife of a death row prisoner.
Then big-money roles through the 2000s included playing Storm in three X-Men superhero flicks, Jinx in Die Another Day, the lead in 2003 thriller Gothika and the title role in Catwoman a year later.
Other credits include 2010 drama Frankie & Alice, as a woman with an identity disorder, as well as more X-Men films.
But Halle remains the only black female to scoop Hollywood’s top gong.
She said: “I really thought that meant very soon other women of colour, black women, would stand beside me.
“Now it’s been 20 years and it’s heart-breaking no one else has stood there.”
Off screen, she meditates to relax and plays the flute.
She said: “I’m a big meditator. It helps me get clarity and helps me make tough decisions.”
But she added: “There’s nothing more grounding than children. It’s kept me clear about what’s important in life and what’s not.
“The children are always watching and I’m mindful of the ‘me’ I allow them to see.”
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