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Oscar winner Halle Berry says her directorial debut, Bruised, left her filled with anxiety on set.
“I was scared shitless. And if you’re not having any sense of worry, I don’t think you care, I don’t think you want to do your best,” Berry said while appearing remotely at the Toronto Film Festival to tout the world premiere of her mixed martial arts drama.
What did give Berry assurance, however, while directing Bruised was her ability to talk to actors. “While I worked on movies for 30 years, I wasn’t behind the camera, but I trusted that I’d be able to do that,” she added.
As Berry looked back over her career during a master class at TIFF, she said she followed up an early modelling career and became an actress to tell stories. “Not unlike most young girls, I had hardship growing up. I grew up in an environment where I didn’t always fit in. But I knew I was full of substance and full of stories to tell. And I knew that I had to somehow find a way to sort of get other people outside of seeing me in this shell,” she told TIFF online viewers.
In Bruised, Berry plays a disgraced MMA fighter, Jackie “Justice,” who has to conquer her own demons and face one of the fiercest rising stars of the MMA world to become the mother that she thinks her son Manny deserves. That role isn’t the first dark horse character that Berry has played during her Hollywood career, which includes her Oscar-winning role of Leticia Musgrove, a dirt-poor widow, in Monster’s Ball.
“You know I’m always most drawn to characters who are fractured, broken, who are fighting to survive. Every time I get to play those roles, I get to have a cathartic experience and I get to have some healing for myself,” Berry explained.
Despite the cachet an Academy Award trophy brought to her Hollywood career, Berry says there’s sadness in not seeing other Black women follow her and win the industry’s biggest best actress prize. “Every time when Oscar time comes round, I get reflective and I think maybe this year, maybe this year, and it’s heartbreaking that other women haven’t stood there,” she revealed.
Though she helmed Bruised, Berry and her film’s producers didn’t initially see her in the director’s chair. But that changed after she talked to prospective directors and didn’t see anyone more fitted than her to her to bring the script to the screen.
“I’d been thinking about directing, but I thought this was too big of a role, and star in this big role,” she recounted. But after the encouragement of a friend and sleeping on the decision, Berry decided to put herself forward as the Bruised director.
“Once I embraced that concept, I had to go to the producers and pitch myself as the director. And to my surprise, they said yes,” she recalled.
On the eve of her world premiere, Netflix acquired Bruised, which Berry credits in large part to the buzz which came to the project after TIFF picked up her directorial debut for its official lineup.
“I can’t stress enough, the importance of festivals, and especially this festival,” Berry said.
The Toronto Film Festival continues through Sept. 19.
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