Color still a barrier in H'wood, Berry says


NEW YORK -- Halle Berry may have won an Oscar, but she says she is frustrated at still having to convince movie studios of her ability because she is black.

"It doesn't matter that I have an Oscar, an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a Silver (Berlin) Bear," Berry, who is pregnant with her first child, said during an interview at a Manhattan hotel to promote her new movie "Things We Lost in the Fire."

"I shouldn't have had to try so hard to be considered. I should have to stop convincing studios I am right for it -- it should be on my acting merit," she said.

Berry was the first black woman to win an Academy Award for best actress, winning the 2002 Oscar for "Monster's Ball."

In her latest film she plays Audrey Burke, a widowed mother of two who asks her husband's friend, Jerry Sunborne, to live with them. She helps him overcome heroin addiction while Sunborne, played by Benicio Del Toro, helps her come to terms with her husband's death.

Berry said her first question when she met the film's Danish director, Susanne Bier, was: "Do you care that I am black because this wasn't written for a black woman ... I think this might be my problem here."

She said that Bier's response was, "To hell with what color you are, it doesn't matter."

But Bier was an exception. In the movie industry, Berry said, race is "always an issue -- slowly it's changing."

"Not having a chance is what I can't live with at this point in my career, I think I have earned that," she said.

The Hollywood Reporter even noted the casting of Berry and Hispanic Del Toro for "Things We Lost in the Fire."

"In going for the best actors, Bier has put together a racially mixed cast with Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro in roles that were undoubtedly written as white. What a refreshing change," the trade magazine wrote.

For the moment, the 41-year-old actress is concentrating on becoming a mother, something she said filming "Things We Lost in the Fire" helped her realize she was ready for.

"Somehow through playing Audrey and having such close connection with the children and dealing with the children as a mother I realized ... this was something that I was really meant to do," Berry said. "I needed that in my life, like I needed the air to breathe."

But Berry says that she would like to get back to work as quickly as possible because by the time her baby with model Gabriel Aubry is born she will have had two years off. "I am already going a little batty," she said.

Her next job, Berry said, is likely to be "Tulia" with director John Singleton, which she said was postponed after her pregnancy began to show earlier than expected.

"Things We Lost in the Fire" opens in U.S. theaters on Oct. 19.