Halle Maria Berry (born Maria Halle Berry; August 14, 1966) is an American actress. She began her career as a model and entered several beauty contests, finishing as the first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant and coming in sixth in the Miss World 1986. Her breakthrough film role was in the romantic comedy Boomerang (1992), alongside Eddie Murphy, which led to roles in films, such as the family comedy The Flintstones (1994), the political comedy-drama Bulworth (1998) and the television film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999), for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award.
Berry grew up in Oakwood, Ohio and graduated from Bedford High School where she was a cheerleader, honor student, editor of the school newspaper and prom queen. She worked in the children's department at Higbee's Department store. She then studied at Cuyahoga Community College. In the 1980s, she entered several beauty contests, winning Miss Teen All American in 1985 and Miss Ohio USA in 1986. She was the 1986 Miss USA first runner-up to Christy Fichtner of Texas. In the Miss USA 1986 pageant interview competition, she said she hoped to become an entertainer or to have something to do with the media. Her interview was awarded the highest score by the judges. She was the first African-American Miss World entrant in 1986, where she finished sixth and Trinidad and Tobago's Giselle Laronde was crowned Miss World. According to the Current Biography Yearbook, Berry "...pursued a modeling career in New York... Berry's first weeks in New York were less than auspicious: She slept in a homeless shelter and then in a YMCA".
In 1989, Berry moved to New York City to pursue her acting ambitions. During her early time there, she ran out of money and had to live briefly in a homeless shelter. Her situation improved by the end of that year, and she was cast in the role of model Emily Franklin in the short-lived ABC television series Living Dolls, which was shot in New York and was a spin-off of the hit series Who's the Boss?. During the taping of Living Dolls, she lapsed into a coma and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. After the cancellation of Living Dolls, she moved to Los Angeles.
Berry dated Chicago dentist John Ronan from March 1989 to October 1991. In November 1993, Ronan sued Berry for $80,000 in what he claimed were unpaid loans to help launch her career. Berry contended that the money was a gift, and a judge dismissed the case because Ronan did not list Berry as a debtor when he filed for bankruptcy in 1992. According to Berry, a beating from a former abusive boyfriend during the filming of The Last Boy Scout in 1991 punctured her eardrum and caused her to lose eighty percent of her hearing in her left ear. Berry has never named the abuser but has said that he is someone well known in Hollywood. In 2004, former boyfriend Christopher Williams accused Wesley Snipes of being responsible for the incident, saying "I'm so tired of people thinking I'm the guy [who did it]. Wesley Snipes busted her eardrum, not me."
Berry has said in published reports that she has been estranged from her father since her childhood, noting in 1992, "I haven't heard from him since [he left]. Maybe he's not alive." Her father was very abusive to her mother. Berry has recalled witnessing her mother being beaten daily, kicked down stairs and hit in the head with a wine bottle.
Berry's film debut was in a small role for Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991), in which she played Vivian, a drug addict. That same year, Berry had her first co-starring role in Strictly Business. In 1992, Berry portrayed a career woman who falls for the lead character played by Eddie Murphy in the romantic comedy Boomerang. The following year, she caught the public's attention as a headstrong biracial slave in the TV adaptation of Queen: The Story of an American Family, based on the book by Alex Haley. Berry was in the live-action Flintstones movie playing the part of "Sharon Stone", a sultry secretary who attempts to seduce Fred Flintstone.
Berry first saw baseball player David Justice on TV playing in an MTV celebrity baseball game in February 1992. When a reporter from Justice's hometown of Cincinnati told her that Justice was a fan, Berry gave her phone number to the reporter to give to Justice. Berry married Justice shortly after midnight on January 1, 1993. Following their separation in February 1996, Berry stated publicly that she was so depressed that she considered taking her own life. Berry and Justice were officially divorced on June 24, 1997.
Berry tackled a more serious role, playing a former drug addict struggling to regain custody of her son in Losing Isaiah (1995), starring opposite Jessica Lange. She portrayed Sandra Beecher in Race the Sun (1996), which was based on a true story, shot in Australia, and co-starred alongside Kurt Russell in Executive Decision. Beginning in 1996, she was a Revlon spokeswoman for seven years and renewed her contract in 2004.
She starred alongside Natalie Deselle Reid in the 1997 comedy film B*A*P*S. In 1998, Berry received praise for her role in Bulworth as an intelligent woman raised by activists who gives a politician (Warren Beatty) a new lease on life. The same year, she played the singer Zola Taylor, one of the three wives of pop singer Frankie Lymon, in the biopic Why Do Fools Fall in Love. In the 1999 HBO biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, she portrayed the first African American woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and it was to Berry a heart-felt project that she introduced, co-produced and fought intensely for it to come through. Berry's performance was recognized with several awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award.
In May 2000, Berry pleaded no contest to charges of leaving the scene of a car accident and was sentenced to three years’ probation, fined $13,500 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.
Berry portrayed the mutant superhero Storm in the film adaptation of the comic book series X-Men (2000) and its sequels, X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). In 2001, Berry appeared in the film Swordfish, which featured her first topless scene. At first, she was opposed to a sunbathing scene in the film in which she would appear topless, but Berry eventually agreed. Some people attributed her change of heart to a substantial increase in the amount Warner Bros. offered her; she was reportedly paid an additional $500,000 for the short scene. Berry denied these stories, telling one interviewer that they amused her and "made for great publicity for the movie". After turning down numerous roles that required nudity, she said she decided to make Swordfish because her then-husband, Eric Benét, supported her and encouraged her to take risks.
Berry married her second husband, singer-songwriter Eric Benét, on January 24, 2001, following a two-year courtship. Benét underwent treatment for sex addiction in 2002, and by early October 2003 they had separated, with the divorce finalized on January 3, 2005.
Berry was ranked No. 1 on People's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" list in 2003 after making the top ten seven times and appeared No. 1 on FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World" the same year. She was named Esquire magazine's "Sexiest Woman Alive" in October 2008, about which she stated: "I don't know exactly what it means, but being 42 and having just had a baby, I think I'll take it." Men's Health ranked her at No. 35 on their "100 Hottest Women of All-Time" list. In 2009, she was voted #23 on Empire's 100 Sexiest Film Stars. The same year, rapper Hurricane Chris released a song entitled "Halle Berry (She's Fine)", extolling Berry's beauty and sex appeal. At the age of 42 (in 2008), she was named the "Sexiest Black Woman" by Access Hollywood's "TV One Access" survey. Born to an African-American father and a white mother, Berry has stated that her biracial background was "painful and confusing" when she was a young woman, and she made the decision early on to identify as a black woman because she knew that was how she would be perceived.
She starred in the psychological thriller Gothika opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in November 2003, during which she broke her arm in a scene with Downey, who twisted her arm too hard. Production was halted for eight weeks. It was a moderate hit at the United States box office, taking in $60 million; it earned another $80 million abroad. Berry appeared in the nu metal band Limp Bizkit's music video for "Behind Blue Eyes" for the motion picture soundtrack for the film. The same year, she was named #1 in FHM's 100 Sexiest Women in the World poll.
Her next film appearance was in the Oprah Winfrey-produced ABC television movie Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005), an adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's novel, with Berry portraying a free-spirited woman whose unconventional sexual mores upset her 1920s contemporaries in a small community. She received her second Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her role. Also in 2005, she served as an executive producer in Lackawanna Blues, and landed her voice for the character of Cappy, one of the many mechanical beings in the animated feature Robots.
In November 2005, Berry began dating French Canadian model Gabriel Aubry, whom she met at a Versace photoshoot. Berry gave birth to their daughter in March 2008. On April 30, 2010, Berry and Aubry announced their relationship had ended some months earlier. In January 2011, Berry and Aubry became involved in a highly publicized custody battle, centered primarily on Berry's desire to move with their daughter from Los Angeles, where Berry and Aubry resided, to France, the home of French actor Olivier Martinez, whom Berry had started dating in 2010 after they met while filming Dark Tide in South Africa. Aubry objected to the move on the grounds that it would interfere with their joint custody arrangement. In November 2012, a judge denied Berry's request to move the couple's daughter to France in light of Aubry's objections. Less than two weeks later, on November 22, 2012, Aubry and Martinez were both treated at a hospital for injuries after engaging in a physical altercation at Berry's residence. Martinez performed a citizen's arrest on Aubry, and because it was considered a domestic violence incident, was granted a temporary emergency protective order preventing Aubry from coming within 100 yards of Berry, Martinez, and the child with whom he shares custody with Berry, until November 29, 2012. In turn, Aubry obtained a temporary restraining order against Martinez on November 26, 2012, asserting that the fight began when Martinez threatened to kill Aubry if he did not allow the couple to move to France. Leaked court documents included photos showing significant injuries to Aubry's face, which were widely displayed in the media. On November 29, 2012, Berry's lawyer announced that Berry and Aubry had reached an amicable custody agreement in court. In June 2014, a Superior Court ruling called for Berry to pay Aubry $16,000 a month in child support (around 200k/year) as well as a retroactive payment of $115,000 and a sum of $300,000 for Aubry's attorney fees.
Along with Pierce Brosnan, Cindy Crawford, Jane Seymour, Dick Van Dyke, Téa Leoni, and Daryl Hannah, Berry successfully fought in 2006 against the Cabrillo Port Liquefied Natural Gas facility that was proposed off the coast of Malibu. Berry said, "I care about the air we breathe, I care about the marine life and the ecosystem of the ocean." In May 2007, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the facility. Hasty Pudding Theatricals gave her its 2006 Woman of The Year award. Berry took part in a nearly 2,000-house cell-phone bank campaign for Barack Obama in February 2008. In April 2013, she appeared in a video clip for Gucci's "Chime for Change" campaign that aims to raise funds and awareness of women's issues in terms of education, health, and justice. In August 2013, Berry testified alongside Jennifer Garner before the California State Assembly's Judiciary Committee in support of a bill that would protect celebrities' children from harassment by photographers. The bill passed in September.
In April 2007, Berry was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Kodak Theatre at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard for her contributions to the film industry, and by the end of the decade, she established herself as one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, earning an estimated $10 million per film.
In 2012, Berry starred as an expert diver tutor alongside then-husband Olivier Martinez in the little-seen thriller Dark Tide, and led an ensemble cast opposite Tom Hanks and Jim Broadbent in The Wachowskis's epic science fiction film Cloud Atlas (2012), with each of the actors playing six different characters across a period of five centuries. Budgeted at US$128.8 million, Cloud Atlas made US$130.4 million worldwide, and garnered polarized reactions from both critics and audiences.
Berry and Martinez confirmed their engagement in March 2012, and married in France on July 13, 2013. In October 2013, Berry gave birth to their son. In 2015, after two years of marriage, the couple announced they were divorcing. The divorce was reported to have been finalized in December 2016, however, as of November 2020, the case is ongoing.
In 2014, Berry signed on to star and serve as a co-executive producer in CBS drama series Extant, where she took on the role of Molly Woods, an astronaut who struggles to reconnect with her husband and android son after spending 13 months in space. The show ran for two seasons until 2015, receiving largely positive reviews from critics. USA Today remarked: "She [Halle Berry] brings a dignity and gravity to Molly, a projected intelligence that allows you to buy her as an astronaut and to see what has happened to her as frightening rather than ridiculous. Berry's all in, and you float along". Also in 2014, Berry launched a new production company, 606 Films, with producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. It is named after the Anti-Paparazzi Bill, SB 606, that the actress pushed for and which was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown in the fall of 2013. The new company emerged as part of a deal for Berry to work in Extant.
In the stand-up comedy concert film Kevin Hart: What Now? (2016), Berry appeared as herself, opposide Kevin Hart, attending a poker game event that goes horribly wrong. Kidnap, an abduction thriller Berry filmed in 2014, was released in 2017. In the film, she starred as a diner waitress tailing a vehicle when her son is kidnapped by its occupants. Kidnap grossed US$34 million and garnered mixed reviews from writers, who felt that it "strays into poorly scripted exploitation too often to take advantage of its pulpy premise — or the still-impressive talents of [Berry]." She next played an agent employed by a secret American spy organisation in the action comedy sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017), as part of an ensemble cast, consisting of Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, and Elton John. While critical response towards the film was mixed, it made US$414 million worldwide.
In 2017, she provided uncredited vocals to the song, "Calling All My Lovelies" by Bruno Mars from his third studio album, 24K Magic.
Berry competed against James Corden in the first rap battle on the first episode of TBS's Drop the Mic, originally aired on October 24, 2017.
Berry made her directorial debut with the feature Bruised in which she plays a disgraced MMA fighter named Jackie Justice, who reconnects with her estranged son. Filming began in 2019 with shooting in Atlantic City and Newark. The film's world premiere was held at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2020. Even Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film.
She is, as of February 2019, executive producer of the BET television series Boomerang, based on the film in which she starred. The series premiered February 12, 2019.
Alongside Daniel Craig, Berry starred as a working-class mother during the 1992 Los Angeles riots in Deniz Gamze Ergüven's drama Kings (2017). The film found a limited theatrical release following its initial screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, and as part of an overall lukewarm reception, Variety noted: "It should be said that Berry has given some of the best and worst performances of the past quarter-century, but this is perhaps the only one that swings to both extremes in the same movie". She played Sofia, an assassin, in the film John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which was released on May 17, 2019 by Lionsgate.