Share via Email Halle Berry can only laugh - even now a little hysterically - when she is asked what went through her mind when she heard her name read out on Oscar night. I know what happened after that because I've seen the video.
But when they said my name I looked at my mom and I looked at my husband and I can't even remember seeing their faces. Clutching her statuette for best actress for her role in the film Monster's Ball - the first time in the Academy's year history that it had been awarded to a black woman - she struggled to articulate her emotion. It's for the women that stand beside me - Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett - and it's for every nameless, faceless woman of colour that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.
What was in me was what came out of me. I think it's always best to be who you are, and that's who I was in that moment. When I describe her poor, black female character in Monster's Ball as being at the bottom of the social pile, she reminds me that "people who are debilitated or disabled or don't have all their mental faculties" have a worse time. The year-old has spent the morning at Pinewood Studios in London, where she is completing a four-month stint filming the next Bond movie.
A grey baseball cap is crammed over her chic curls, but the peak's shadow fails to conceal the glorious swell of her cheekbones. Two days later I was back on Bond, working hour days, so I haven't even had time to reflect. The only thing I can tell you I've noticed so far is that people, especially in London - and not black people, but all people - are coming up and telling me how impacted they were and what it meant to them.
That I know has changed me and feels good. She turns in an exceptional performance as the feckless, angry young woman who finds an unlikely redemption with a man whose own pain and prejudices are transformed by love.
The questionable premise of impoverished young black woman rescued by older white man is offset by an appropriately low-key ending. And Berry argues that Leticia's romance was about choice rather than need. I liked the ending because the one thing it didn't do was put a Hollywood bow on it.
They didn't run off and get married. It left them with as much hope as conflict, and it was left for the audience to decide what happens in the morning. It is striking in its raw honesty, and Leticia takes a reasonable amount of time to reach orgasm rather than the usual like-a-train-in-half-the-time of the established screen sex lexicon. Berry still seems a little surprised at her explicit performance.
We both agreed to be uninhibited with our bodies, so it wasn't just the woman who was being exposed, and we just said, 'Let's service these characters. When was the last time Julia Roberts was accused of "trading on her looks"?
But for me to really talk about that now is coming from a negative space, the space of a victim. What other people think has become very insignificant to me.
I know - I know how I get there, and I know what I get and I know how I take decisions and that's really what's become important. She lived in both predominantly black and predominantly white neighbourhoods as a child, and her mixed parentage soon attracted attention. At times I've felt like I didn't fit into the white community, and at times I've felt like I didn't fit into the black community, but those moments of feeling a misfit don't compare to the knowledge I've gained.
I don't see black and white in such a shallow way. She followed this with roles in The Flintstones, Warren Beatty's political satire Bulworth Beatty remains a close friend , and won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her portrayal of pioneering black American actress Dorothy Dandridge in A year later she she played Storm, a mutant who has the ability to control the weather, in the sci-fi hit X-Men.
Now married to singer and composer Eric Bonet, and stepmother to his year-old daughter India, Berry's personal life has been turbulent. She survived a difficult three-year marriage to baseball player David Justice that was seldom out of the public eye. Two years ago she pleaded no contest to hit-and-run charges after fleeing a car crash.
She was sentenced to community service and settled a civil action brought by the other driver. Sustained by her "five tried-and-true friends", a close relationship with her mother and a strong sense of spirituality, Berry says that she is now as driven by her desire for a secure life for her family as by ambition. I was struggling to know who I was and I now know. I deal with mistakes differently now, I realise that every mistake is a greater chance to grow and learn. Nothing will shake me to the point where I crumble, and I used to crumble, I used to be afraid.
When asked what she considers to be her breakthrough film, she shrieks: I would have to say Monster's Ball, because now I'm really at the party, and I'm getting opportunities that I never had before. And the colour of my skin: