Pretty people problems. Halle Berry revealed in a new interview that she was often “discounted as an actor” when she was starting out in Hollywood because she was simply too beautiful.
“I came from the world of beauty pageants and modeling and right away when people heard that I got discounted as an actor,” she told W magazine for its Royals portfolio. “So, I had the job of trying to eliminate that part of my persona, and Spike [Lee] gave me a chance to do that. And I took on roles early on that really didn’t rely on my physical self at all and that was a good way to sort of get some credibility within my industry.”
Berry, 50, played a drug addict in Lee’s 1991 Jungle Fever, and even though the director initially wanted to cast her opposite Wesley Snipes as his wife, the Oscar-winning actress fought to take on the less glamorous role of Vivian.
“Spike wanted me to read for the part of [Snipe’s] wife and I read that part fine enough, but then I said to Spike, ‘You know I really am eyeing this crack ho role, can you please let me audition for that?’” Berry recalled. “And he said, ‘No, no I don’t see you as the crack ho.’ I said, ‘I am the crack ho. Really deep down I’m the crack ho!’ And he was like, ‘No, I don’t see it.’ And I said, ‘Let me go in the bathroom, wash all this makeup off; you will see I am the crack ho.’”
“So, he let me do that and I came back out and I got to read the crack ho, and I got the part of the crack ho,” she continued. “And it was an amazing way to start my career, playing a crack ho directed by Spike Lee. It was major for me.”
Berry would go on to famously play the troubled wife of a convicted murderer in 2001’s Monster’s Ball, for which she took home an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
But getting the part wasn’t easy, Berry told W magazine. “With Monster’s Ball, Lee Daniels didn’t want to see me read,” she said. “He was actually disgusted by the thought. He thought there’s no way and my argument to him was, ‘Just because someone looks a certain way doesn’t mean that they are spared adversity. Adversity does not discriminate.’ … He ultimately gave me a chance and that sort of changed the course of my career in so many ways.”