The women’s revolution came to the world of cinema to stay. Very few speak of the #TimesUp movement today, but climate change is evident and opportunities for women are multiplying, even in the midst of the pandemic. The best example is seeing that Halle Berry crossed from the other side of the cameras to fill the role of director in the new film production Bruised. And although the quarantine does not allow it to be seen in a normal movie theater, Halle Berry, at least, was able to premiere a virtual version at the Toronto International Film Festival, clarifying that the final version that will be seen complete on Netflix is not yet finished.
The Oscar Academy this year imposed that those productions that intend to compete for the Best Film award also have enough diversity, even if it is behind the scenes.Do you think that today there is much more diversity and many more opportunities for women in the world of cinema ?
I think there is a change. 20 years ago we lived in a world very different from today. It was difficult for me to find roles that inspired me enough to show my talent or even be able to act in a much wider range than I can work today. Look at the world of TV. The best cinema is there today and it is of all colors. It’s full of wonderful female roles that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. And I am very proud to also be part of that evolution because I am still here, with a good career ahead of me, in a new frontier as film directing.
With the role as director, did you finally get full control of your work as an actress?
I just want to tell more stories, not just about women, women of color, because I realized that if we don’t do it ourselves, there is less chance of it happening. And today it inspires me to see so many women of color writing, directing, producing, telling our own stories with our own glasses. And it also inspires me to see that those who do not have our color support us, helping to give so many opportunities.
How much of Halle Berry is in the character of Jackie Justice in Bruised?
There’s a lot of Jackie in me, in all of history. Being a woman of color in this industry, I understand what it means to struggle over the years to try to find a place where I often felt I had no way out. That’s what instantly connected me to the character. I always connect with the most defenseless. I have felt helpless in so many moments … not only in my personal life, but also in my professional life.
Did the resemblance always appear in the script or did you give it another direction over time?
When I had read the script for the first time, three or four years ago, it was not even written for me. It was for a 25 year old Irish Catholic girl. And I knew it couldn’t be like that for me, but I liked the classic side of a fighting movie, where people like to rouse the handicapped. I liked the broken goodness of the character and I am passionate about redemption movies. I like to lift the human spirit. I like to see someone survive the obstacles to finish standing at the end of the day.
And did you think from the beginning about directing it, in addition to starring in it?
Well, after reading the script, I first looked for the producers who had the rights and had to convince them so that they could imagine that the protagonist could be a middle-aged black woman, proving that I could play this fighter, to tell his story. When I convinced them, they gave me the responsibility of looking for the director who might have the same vision that could bring it to life. And I spoke with renowned actors and various directors. But on the same path, although I respect all of them, I felt that many of them did not understand or identify with the material in the same way that I saw it. And talking about it with a friend, one night, when I told her that no one understood what I was imagining, she asked me why I did not encourage myself to direct it.
Have you never thought of directing your own movie before?
I had thought about directing before, I even thought about writing a short film, but this role seemed too big for me to be the lead and direct for the first time as well. It seemed crazy to me. But my friend kept insisting that I could do it, that she was sure that I had all the conditions, that nobody could understand better than I what I wanted to do, that nobody loved the project as much as I did.
The actress learned various disciplines for two and a half years.
The best lesson you learned with other film directors, to have implemented it now behind the camera, with other actors.
One of the good lessons I learned was when I worked with Warren Beatty, when he also worked as an actor on the same movie. And I remember that he himself said that the job as a director was not to control everything, but to hire those we respect enough to believe that they can share the same vision, to let them do their work alone. Be a benevolent leader, trust the people you hire.
How was the physical training for the acting job when you had to represent a mixed martial arts fighter?
He had not the slightest experience in martial arts, beyond the love of sport and the interest in learning everything he could learn. I ended up training for two and a half years, learning many different disciplines, from jiujitsu to taekwondo and judo or wrestling, boxing and kickboxing. I learned a lot of different disciplines until I got the fighting style I wanted for my character, but really, it took me two and a half years to prepare.
As a director, did you think of fans who love film style as Rocky or the old martial arts movies?
Yes, and somehow I wanted to keep the genre of that style of cinema because it is a style of cinema that people also admire. I wanted them to feel something similar, but with the challenge of finding a new way to film it. Martial arts training is even very different from boxing. And I wanted to show all the different elements that I could find. I wanted the real community of the UFC and MMA leagues, the real fighters of those leagues to want to see the movie, to see themselves, trying to show their world as real as possible.
Do you plan to repeat the experience as a director or was it your debut and farewell?
It takes me back to the time when I was just starting out in my acting career, when I couldn’t be sure if this was what I was going to be able to do for the rest of my life. But so it was. I just did what came my way. And it’s what I’ve always done in my career. I can only recognize the opportunity of the moment to face it without fear. It’s the same thing that happened with film direction. Although it was something that was always on my mind and I had other projects, fate forced me to come across a movie like Bruised.
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