How Halle Berry Channeled the Fight of Her Career to Star in and Direct Bruised

In Bruised, Halle Berry’s directorial debut now on Netflix, she plays an MMA fighter for the first time. But to hear the actor tell it, she’s spent her whole career in the ring—angling for the projects that materialize for others in Hollywood. “I’ve been fighting my whole life within this industry, as a Black woman fighting to make a way out of no way,” she tells Vanity Fair’s Chris Murphy. “When I started 30 years ago, there were not nearly the opportunities that Black women get to enjoy and experience today. I was literally struggling to find work.” 

Her 2002 Academy Award for Monster’s Ball, while groundbreaking, failed to translate into steady roles. “Even after my Oscar win, which is one of the greatest achievements of my life, I still struggled,” Berry explains. “I still had to figure out how to make a way for myself.” Nearly twenty years later, the first-time director reflects on the journey and its many hurdles for this week’s episode of Little Gold Men.  

Elsewhere on LGM, Katey Rich and Richard Lawson dish on the Oscar prospects of West Side Story, break down Richard’s annual list of the top 10 movies of the year, and prognosticate what the Gotham Awards mean for the top races, before Katey’s interview with Gaby Hoffmann of C’mon C’mon. Meanwhile, David Canfield and Rebecca Ford drop by to share their thoughts on Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming thriller, Nightmare Alley.

Give a listen to the episode above, and find Little Gold Men on Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you get your podcasts. You can also sign up to text with us at Subtext—we’d love to hear from you.

Read a partial transcript of the Halle Berry interview below.

Vanity Fair: How long have you known that you wanted to direct?

Halle Berry: I got the idea that it was something I could do probably 10 years ago. I thought, This might be the second act of my career. It might be in my future. But I intended on directing a short first. I had written a short about plastic surgery, and I thought that would be my entry into my directing career.

Wow, that’s a very big leap from plastic surgery to mixed martial arts. What happened with that short and how did you land on Bruised?

Well, the short just never got done. It kept getting pushed and pushed and pushed. And I just kept working as an actor. You know, I’d written it and I was all set to go. But I never really dedicated the time to do it. I always was intending to, right? It was one of those things that was always gnawing at me. And when this came along, this was just given to me as a script to be an actor in the movie, never to direct it. I thought I just wanted to play the MMA fighter. That was largely enough for me. It was a big, huge role. I’d have to spend a couple years training and getting my body into shape and learning all these different martial art disciplines. So I didn’t even really expect to be on this journey directing this film, honestly. 

So how did you go from starring in the movie to directing it?

When I got the script, it was written for a 20-something, white, Irish Catholic girl. Blake Lively had the script at the time. My agent says, “If Blake does it, then obviously you can’t. But if she passes on her own volition, I’ll make sure you get a shot at it.” I knew that would require me reimagining the role for a middle-aged Black woman, and a whole different world because the world that’s on paper is not the world I can exist in. It took her about six months to decide. While she was doing that, I was actively and passionately reimagining the character for a Black woman like me, and in a world that I understood. So when she passed, I had the opportunity to go to Basil [Iwanyk]—he was a producer at the time—and pitched my version of it. And to my surprise, he said, “Yes. Now, Halle, go find a filmmaker.” I said, “Will do. I’m gonna go find a filmmaker. I’ll be back.”

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