Is Halle Berry finally done paying for "Catwoman"?
July 23, 2019 11:52 AM   Subscribe

 
Fantastic article. Part of me thought, "She's done a lot since Catwoman," but I just had the timeline mixed up, and it's unconscionable that she's not top-of-mind for all and any projects that are out there right now.
posted by xingcat at 12:14 PM on July 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


The article makes a good point. I mean, there have been some pretty shitty superhero movies made, but George Clooney's career hasn't suffered because of Batman & Robin, nor the guys who played the Human Torch in three separate Fantastic Four movies.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:23 PM on July 23, 2019 [14 favorites]


Even though I still think she's miscast as Storm, I agree with so much of this article. It also felt like, to me, that Catwoman was one of those make-or-break movies that could really seal your brand (in either confirming or denying it), and she tipped into that undercurrent of expectations that beautiful women can't really act (even with an Oscar) that then intersected with race also.
posted by cendawanita at 12:23 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


Halle Berry is an interesting case, because she did get to keep making movies -- including fairly high profile projects like Cloud Atlas -- after Catwoman, they just weren't successful movies. Even this article glosses over that a bit -- it talks about a Spielberg-produced TV series that was quickly cancelled after two seasons. A TV show that makes it through two seasons is not necessarily a hit, but it isn't swiftly cancelled, either -- plenty of shows don't make it past the first month on Network TV.

I just read something else this afternoon that was about Asian actors (in the context of the Marvel announcement of the Shang-Chi movie) and the fact that they only get one chance -- as soon as they land a dud, that's it, they're out of Hollywood. But that doesn't seem to be what happened to Berry. She was still getting cast in things, but those things didn't end up being successful. Was it just audiences that turned on her? Or was she being cast in worse projects?
posted by jacquilynne at 12:24 PM on July 23, 2019 [9 favorites]


But that doesn't seem to be what happened to Berry. She was still getting cast in things, but those things didn't end up being successful.

Or.. another perspective is that the projects offered were few and far between, and of low quality. Therefore her choices were: not working at all, or accepting the low-quality scripts just to stay on the Hollywood radar.
posted by jeremias at 12:38 PM on July 23, 2019 [12 favorites]


Hollywood is bad at writing good roles for women older than 32 or so and also bad at writing roles for people of color so it's not surprising that she didn't get that many offers.
posted by octothorpe at 1:08 PM on July 23, 2019 [12 favorites]


I crushed out on her in Boomerang, which released in my college years. I thought she brought such a great twist to the plot and subversion of the "leading lady" character. And she did amazing in Monster's Ball, but her and Thornton both were overshadowed by the film's controversial premise.

But she was also terribly miscast in the X-Men, and her portrayal of Storm was so wooden compared to the "natural force" needed in that character. And then there's Swordfish. Worse than Catwoman in my opinion, though she did ok in it. Swordfish is a pretty good lens actually because of the antagonist in that one - her career reminds me of Travolta's. He's got some good work under his belt, but limited range and does a really bad job at picking films.

As I'm saying this, none of this really adds up to the real "why" - Hollywood is fickle and racist and misogynist towards aging female actors. But it does show again that in the lottery system of casting and directing, getting to a winning combination is harder than we think and should be celebrated more when it happens.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 1:13 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


From 2000 to 2003, she had major roles in four films that topped the box office: 2000’s X-Men, 2001’s Swordfish, 2002’s Bond flick Die Another Day and 2003’s X2: X-Men United.

Yeah, I'd argue that the author way over-estimates her career trajectory. She was awful as Storm in those movies, Swordfish was forgettable, and "Bond Girl" is third billing at best over the villain and James Bond, and I'd argue that she was overshadowed by Rosamund Pike (playing Miranda Frost) for romantic chemistry with Bond.

This isn't to say that she's a bad actress, but just that Catwoman was the final nail in the coffin of a stalled career, not an abrupt shift in a soaring career.
posted by explosion at 1:53 PM on July 23, 2019 [14 favorites]


I thought she did a more than decent job in Extant, if the series got cancelled it wasn't down to her.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:59 PM on July 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


This isn't to say that she's a bad actress

I certainly wouldn't argue that she's good.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:00 PM on July 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


Sixteen movies that grossed a total of over $1.1 billion, two years as the lead of a broadcast television show, an Emmy nomination, two Golden Globe nominations, a BET award and two additional nominations, an Image award and five additional nominations, a People's Choice Award and two other nominations, and a Saturn award ... all in the 15 years since Catwoman.

Do you know how many famous, working actors would kill for that "slump"?
posted by gritter at 2:16 PM on July 23, 2019 [19 favorites]


Bulworth! She was in Bulworth! She's diabetic, her manager of 25 years used her reputation to coerce women of color into sex, and she is a single mother who had her first daughter at 41. She has been through some serious shit.

I'm happy she exists. She's one of my favorites, hands-down, and if she's back on screen in major roles, I will literally throw a party. She's a hero, a role model, and one of my few abiding unconditional subjects of fandom.
posted by saysthis at 2:27 PM on July 23, 2019 [16 favorites]


I'm not sure I would use the phrase "finally done paying" for somebody who suffered domestic violence.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:29 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


I remember seeing her speech at the Razzies a few years ago and being really impressed with her humor and humility. It's linked within the FPP article, and worth watching if you haven't seen it. She's got a lot more depth than the roles she was taking at the height of her career would suggest.
posted by biogeo at 3:00 PM on July 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


I suspect she got on the wrong end of the Hollywood high school machine and they whisper-networked her out of there. It happens.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:02 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


I liked her Storm.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 3:27 PM on July 23, 2019 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure I would use the phrase "finally done paying" for somebody who suffered domestic violence.

If Wesley Snipes (who as the article states, beat Berry so brutally that she lost all hearing in one ear) is considered "OK" enough by Hollywood to do cute cameos in cable TV shows, but Halle Berry is still persona non grata for doing one ill-considered superhero movie, that pretty much justifies #metoo's existence right there.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:53 PM on July 23, 2019 [35 favorites]


On a very shallow level, a friend who works with a fair number of Hollywood celebs says that Halle is the only one he's met who, in person, is absolutely as stunning in appearance as they are on camera.

I've been at least captivated and mostly impressed in the work of hers I've seen. Whatever trough she found herself in wasn't one of her own making.
posted by maxwelton at 4:37 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


Has she not been in anything recently? I guess I've been doing that mental accounting thing where the nineties/early 00's are perpetually 5-10 years in the past. Also, I have a weird crush on Swordfish because it's such a damned goofy movie (All real hackers use 9 monitors! The utterly random and completely fictitious Thomas Jefferson story! It's Oceans Eleven, wait no it's the Prestige, but set in the Matrix and dumbed down a lot!), so it's not like I've forgotten about her existence.


Looking at IMDB, it looks like she was in a few films in the late 2000's and then I guess Cloud Atlas. If CA or Extant had been more explosive, maybe she would have had a career renaissance mid 2010's and we'd be reading articles about HB's second career boom. I think Julia Roberts has had a similar career trajectory over the past 20 years but slightly more successful.

I notice that IMDB has Halle Berry listed as "known for" Catwoman and Gothika, which seems a bit like listing Orson Welles as "known for" Transformers: The Movie
posted by Query at 4:37 PM on July 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


That cute cameo is really the only thing he's done of consequence in the 15 year period we're talking about. In fact, I'd thought he was just hanging out in prison for tax evasion before seeing that show, but I guess he got out in 2013. A quick scan of the situation makes it look like he might be going back in the slammer one of these days since he still owes approximately a hojillion dollars.
posted by sideshow at 4:41 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


Berry’s performance was definitely a highlight of John Wick Chapter 3.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:11 PM on July 23, 2019 [7 favorites]


I don't know if anyone else is judging her performance as Storm specifically on the line 'you know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else' or if it's just me. It doesn't sound like that was necessarily her fault - the reading they used was absolutely not the reading it was intended to be spoken in.
posted by Merus at 7:27 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


She was badly, badly miscast as Storm. Of course, 16 years later they finally get the casting right, then proceed to do absolutely nothing with the character. In two movies, at that.
posted by signal at 8:10 PM on July 23, 2019


I really liked her in Monsters Ball, and thought she was the best thing in the mediocre Swordfish, but I don’t think I have seen anything she has done since then. She deserves success as much or more than any number of male actors who seem to coast through with little effort.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:56 PM on July 23, 2019


Net worth $80M. I have a long list of people to worry about before I get to her.
posted by senor biggles at 11:10 PM on July 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


I liked her as Storm, too. Is the movie character, like, way different than the character in the comics or something? Is that the issue people have? Asking for serious, because I never read the comics.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:40 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't know if anyone else is judging her performance as Storm specifically on the line 'you know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else' or if it's just me. It doesn't sound like that was necessarily her fault - the reading they used was absolutely not the reading it was intended to be spoken in.

Apparently, this was a punchline that lost it's set up (the Toad making snide little comments that began with the phrase "you know what happens to a toad..."). So, it's possible that this is a case of editing not supporting the actress especially well.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:02 AM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen the first X-Men* since it came out but I remember liking her performance; why do people think that she was miscast?

* And given what we now know about Singer, I don't think that I'll be revisiting any of his films
posted by octothorpe at 5:08 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't know if anyone else is judging her performance as Storm specifically on the line 'you know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else' or if it's just me. It doesn't sound like that was necessarily her fault - the reading they used was absolutely not the reading it was intended to be spoken in.

I think that the reason why people pick on that line specifically is that Joss Whedon called it out in an interview he did back in the day for the AV Club; he made a huge deal out of it, as if her delivery of that single line ruined the whole movie. I went back and watched the movie and, honestly, no, it wasn't that bad; Berry didn't stick out that well, but I think that that was more of a matter of most of the actors (with the possible exceptions of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) being overshadowed by the mutant charisma aura of Hugh Jackman. Whedon's problem is the same one he's had repeatedly: he has this picture in his head about how the performance of his script should be, and if someone does anything even slightly differently, it's the Worst Thing Ever.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:24 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


My problem is a more general one, but tbh Singer doesn't have the best track record of casting when it comes to people he's not actively making eyes at, it seemed like. When it comes to Storm in particular, the balance between strength vs vulnerability is not in ratio appropriate for Storm. For another character maybe, but not for Storm, the way she played it. But tbh it's a moot point because when has Storm ever got a chance to shine in the movies beyond some power moves? How many movies and we're either back to Xavier/Lehnsherr or another crack at the sentinels or the Phoenix again.

But back to Berry, I think even when she tried to go for the blockbuster indie route with the Wachowskis, it backfired because it was Cloud Atlas and the badly conceived race-cosplay, even if I thought hers was the least problematic but that's just a matter of scale. There's also in some not-small way that she's not a beneficiary of being a 'woke' fave, for Monster's Ball and the association with X-Men/Singer, and just being lightskinned (now that a bit more awareness by black actors about colourism). But a lot of that isn't her fault and a lot of that is just plain intersecting axes.
posted by cendawanita at 6:48 AM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


And even talking about Cloud Atlas as a bomb, I'll just leave it as an exercise to the reader over which siblings still landed a Netflix deal, which star still managed to play Fred Rogers etc etc while we're getting this piece about Berry.
posted by cendawanita at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


There's also in some not-small way that she's not a beneficiary of being a 'woke' fave, for Monster's Ball and the association with X-Men/Singer, and just being lightskinned (now that a bit more awareness by black actors about colourism).

I mean, Halle Berry isn't just lightskinned, she's biracial, which is another complicating factor thanks to racial dynamics in the US when it comes to her being cast as Storm (and Alexandra Shipp as her successor) over, say, Angela Bassett, for example.
posted by Freeze Peach at 8:12 AM on July 24, 2019


It's hard to remember at this point, thanks to the quality of the MCU films, but back then lots of us thought the first X-Men film was as good as a mainstream superhero adaptation could be, or at least as good as we were every likely to get. If you compare it to the tone and casting and strength of, say, the first iron Man, though, it's pretty bad.

That's not to say there's not some good parts. Some of the casting was great -- obviously Stewart and McKellen, but also (and it was somewhat controversial at the time, given his size) Jackman. However, the balance was not good. I dunno if it was more writing or more performance, but Janssen and Marsden had ZERO chemistry as Jean and Scott. They were super super wooden (and we've seen way better from Famke elsewhere). Tyler Mane LOOKED like Sabretooth (in a way that they abandoned later, with the Schreiber re-cast) but was a horrible actor (Schreiber, obviously, was much stronger).

Her Storm is right there with Jean and Scott, though. Wooden, lifeless, and not at all the awe-inspiring African goddess that Ororo is in the comics. (I mean, not actually a goddess, but was worshipped as one for her weather powers.) They got better with the recast, but still gave the character little to do.

Maybe the issue was more Singer than cast or script, but any way you slice it there's some clang in that film.

Anyway, I'm absolutely sure that minority actors and directors get less slack after career setbacks than white people do, but I'm also pretty sure that Berry's career doldrums aren't entirely due to the failure of Catwoman. As noted above, she wasn't exactly a fixed star in the firmament pre-Catwoman, and she got big, prestige work AFTER Catwoman that just didn't pan out for whatever reason. There was every reason to expect Cloud Atlas was gonna be huge, right? Pinning her post-40 career on a bomb at 38 is consequently a hard sell.
posted by uberchet at 8:26 AM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Halle Berry as Storm was alright enough for the movie they made at the time, but she should have looked and sounded more like Danai Gurira's "Oyoke" from Black Panther.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:24 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


For goodness sake, blaming any of the many problems with the X-Man series on someone other than Singer and the producers who decided to run with Singer's "vision" of the product is just bonkers. There's nothing Berry could do with a role that is nothing. They screwed the franchise up from the start, continually choosing to ignore the breadth of characters for the one's they thought would be the most popular, gave the other actors nothing but some show off the powers and be worried scenes and killed any notion of there being a community of relationships to do so. They tried to reboot and fix it with First Class, but then went right back to the well with the same handful of characters since that's all people took from the first movies.

Singer is an idiot and scumbag and no one should have to carry blame for anything he did except him and the jerks who put him in charge. Berry could have made a fine Storm in a movie that gave a damn about her, or just women in general if they aren't in blue body paint as a costume.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:34 AM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


That's probably fair.

I don't think Singer or Fox ever really understood the material they were adapting, so we ended up with a mess.

This is topic drift, but it's interesting: I just went to Wikipedia to see if I could find the trendline or source of the "gets it"/increase in quality of superhero films that started to happen with the Raimi Spider-Man, the Iron Man film, etc.

Guess what? It's Kevin Fiege. Lauren Shuler Donner hired him as an associate producer on X-Men based on his deep knowledge of the Marvel Universe, i.e. his fandom.

Clearly, he didn't have as much influence as we might like, but it'd be easy to believe that the things right about that film could be traced to him in some way. Any way you slice it and despite modern (reasonable!) complains, X-Men was the best conventional superhero film since Donner's husband was directing Chris Reeve.

Then he worked as an associate producer on Spider-Man in 2002, and whaddaya know? Even better film.

He's not totally Midas -- he has co-producer credits on the Affleck Daredevil as well as X2, and executive credits on Hulk (Eric Bana version), The Punisher (with Thomas Jane), the 05 and 07 FF films (where, presumably, he met Chris Evans), and a smattering of other hit-and-miss superhero work (including the terrible and wonderful Blade: Trinity).

But then, in 2007, he was made president of production at Marvel Studios, and the next year we got Iron Man and the MCU as we know it.

So yeah: Feige all the way. And I totally didn't realize it until now.
posted by uberchet at 12:06 PM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that's actually Kevin Feige's origin story - he was hired as a producer that had actually read X-Men as a kid, and he discovered while working on X-Men that the comics, more often than not, had already road tested story ideas somewhere in their history. You don't have to invent new elements out of whole cloth. He got so frustrated with having to convince studios of the wisdom of this that he eventually pitched Marvel on doing their own adaptations, in-house*. He's cited X-Men and working with Fox specifically as a motivator.

It's fun going back and reading profiles of Feige before The Avengers, and from after he became the most successful producer in Hollywood.

* He was already on Marvel's payroll at this point
posted by Merus at 11:56 PM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


Berry was perfectly fine in the X-men films. She was just given jack shit to do in the entire damn franchise, and saddled with that infamous Toad line. Hell, she was fine in Catwoman too, but that movie was just spectacularly awful.
posted by brundlefly at 5:56 PM on July 25, 2019


The basketball scene in Catwoman makes me sick. Literally. As in physically nauseous. The way it's shot triggered my motion sickness, and movies never do that to me.
posted by brundlefly at 5:59 PM on July 25, 2019


brundlefly: "Berry was perfectly fine in the X-men films."

Yes, she was fine, unless she was trying to play the Ororo Munroe / Storm omega-level mutant / weather goddess character, in which case she was awful.
posted by signal at 2:43 PM on July 29, 2019


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