When Halle Berry read the original script for Bruised, she knew she had to be a part of it.
There was just one problem. The movie — centered around a disgraced MMA fighter — was written for a 25-year-old white girl.
"My job was to figure out how to convince the producers to let me reimagine it for a middle-aged Black woman," Berry, 54, says with a laugh. She not only succeeded, but she also ended up in the director's chair for the first time in her 30-year Hollywood career.
Now, the mom of Nahla, 12, and Maceo, 7, couldn't be more proud of the flick. "I love films about redemption," she says. "I want to see the human spirit soar."
Here, Berry talks about branching out, kicking butt and staying grounded.
How did you come to direct Bruised?
HB: The producers charged me with finding a director, and I spoke to a few, but no one saw it quite the way I did. Then a friend said, "Why don't you do it? No one understands or loves it as you do." I woke up the next day thinking, "Yes, I can!"
It's your first time behind the camera. Were you nervous?
Of course! I was scared s**tless. But having fear is healthy. If you're not worried, I don't think you really care.
What were the best and worst parts of directing?
While I've worked on movies for 30 years, I never had to make all the decisions. The easiest part was working with actors. I know the language. I've seen some directors almost derail performances because they don't know how to talk to actors. But I was very comfortable doing that, and it was the most exciting and exhilarating part of it for me.
You broke two ribs while filming a fight scene. Did you take a break?
No. Laughs. I was like, "Nah, we've gotta keep going. We can't stop!"
You were a successful model in the 1980s. Why did you switch to acting?
I was looking for a voice. Initially, I wanted to be a journalist and thought I'd travel and report on world news. But acting sort of just happened, like many things in my life. I let the universe set forth what I should be doing sometimes.
You've said playing an addict in the 1991 film Jungle Fever changed your life. How so?
From that moment on, I felt I could be seen as more than just a pretty face or a model-turned-actor. I had a lot of hardship growing up and didn't always feel like I fit in, and I knew I was full of substance and stories to tell. I had to find a way to get people to see that, so my film debut playing that character set my career off in a good direction.
Do you have a favorite role?
The truth is, I look at all of my films like children. Every single one of them has left an impression. Even the ones that seemed like they were failures. I've learned something really valuable on every film set I've walked on and from every character I've brought to life.
How do you stay grounded in light of your amazing success?
Meditation always brings me back to myself and helps me get clarity. And there's nothing more grounding than having children. Being a mother has kept me very centered and focused on what's important in life. My kids have forced me to be the best version of myself because I know they're always watching, so I've become a better person as a result.