So last week I teased you with some news from an interview I did with Halle Berry on Thursday, when she and Morris Chestnut were on a publicity tour for their upcoming movie The Call (co-starring Abigail Breslin and Morris, who plays her cop boyfriend), confirming that she will be returning as Storm in the next X-Men movie (…that is, she’s almost certain that she’ll be in it)...
No need to go into details about Halle and Morris. You know who they are and what they’ve done, and though I didn’t have a lot of time with them, I was able to get some interesting stuff from them, including Halle getting somewhat personal, even admitting (for the first time, to my knowledge) that, if she had to do it all over again, maybe the actor’s life wouldn’t be for her.
So here’s the complete interview in which they talk about their new film, and a few other things as well, with practically no edits (except for a true story I told them about actor Sir Lawrence Olivier, to follow up on a point she made during our talk).
SERGIO: O.K. first things first, I have to ask both of you a question in regards to some upcoming projects. Halle, are you coming back as Storm in the next X-Men film, X-Men; Days of Future Past?
HALLE: Yes I think so, I think so. (laughs)
SERGIO: O.K. we’ll take that as a yes.
HALLE: Yes it all looks like yes.
SERGIO: When does shooting start?
HALLE: In April.
SERGIO: That soon? So you are doing it?
HALLE: I think so. There are still a few little minor details that we’re still hashing out, but unless something drastically goes wrong I’m sure I will. (nods)
SERGIO: And Morris why now for a Best Man sequel after all this time?
MORRIS: Why not? It’s something that people have talked about throughout the years. Now as good a time as any, right?
SERGIO: Well…yeah…true but it’s been like what 10 years since the first one.
MORRIS: It’s actually been about 14. Well I think what it is, is that the studio does its research and they had a lot of people writing in saying that they would love to see a sequel. So they go out and do surveys and crunch the numbers and the numbers look good and they say it’s probably a good idea to do it.
SERGIO: It’s a good financial bet…
MORRIS: Well yeah, sometimes it is.
HALLE: They have a built in audience.
MORRIS: Yeah there’s a built in audience for sequel, so why not? You sound like you’re against it. (laughs)
SERGIO: Me why never! I didn’t say that.
MORRIS You can be. (laughs) Everyone’s not going to be for it. I understand.
MORRIS: You’re against it.
SERGIO: No, no. Why are you putting words in my mouth?
HALLE: I’m going to go see it. (laughs)
MORRIS: Thank you! We have $18 right here. Do we have $36?
SERGIO: Well O.K. you’ve got it.
HALLE & MORRIS Wooooo! All right! We’ve got $36!!! (Applaud)
SERGIO: So getting to The Call, you spend a lot of time talking to the kidnap victim (Breslin) on the phone which is difficult for any actor since there’s really no one there to have eye contact with and to relate to face to face. You basically have someone off camera feeding you her lines. How difficult is it to get you into a mindset as if there’s a real person in danger on the other end on the line?
HALLE: Well that’s where the imagination of the actor comes in. I have to imagine what’s happening But I did have, luckily for me, Abigail and I when it was my days to shoot she would come in and be sitting in a room next door talking to me. So I at least I had her real voice on the other end of the phone and not some reader who would give it no energy. And I did the same for her and that helped a lot. But I still had to create in my mind what was actually happening. So the horror of what I didn’t know is what I used. I didn’t know. I couldn’t see. I had to imagine what was happening.
SERGIO: Did you actually go to 911 centers and observe what they actually do and what the environment is like?
HALLE: Oh yes, I spent hours doing that days with the people listening to real life calls. They have a very intense training process that they go through, really intense and the statistics are that 80% of the people who go through training don’t graduate and don’t become operators.
SERGIO: It’s too hard, too intense.
HALLE: You have to be very intelligent, you have to be able to type at a record speed and you have to be able to spell because you have to type in names of random streets. If someone calls you for help and tell you where they are you don’t have time to ask: “Honey how do you spell that?” You have to type it out and then this gets translated to the police or the fire department or the ambulance. So you have to be able to spell, think on your feet and talk to the person on the phone and instruct them to do what you want them to do, then put them on hold and inform all these other people . So the person who can do that and stay calm and always be thinking is a different kind of bird, that’s a different kind of individual.
SERGIO: And Morris what about you, you play a cop in the film so you hung out with cops?
MORRIS: Yes we did several ride alongs for a couple of shifts prior to making the movie. It was very eye opening. (laughs) Just understanding to see what’s it like to see the world through their eyes being in a police car and seeing people look at you and automatically judge you. Some are happy to see you and some aren’t so happy to see you. So if was definitely eye opening to me.
SERGIO: Which makes me ask of you in Identity Thief you play this straight laced Fed agent, the calm center of gravity in a crazy world. Didn’t you wish that during the film that just once you could just cut up and go crazy and do some wacky comedy stuff like the two leads in the film?
MORRIS: Funny you bring that up. There was a point when we were shooting that we had done a couple of takes of a particular scene and the director said to me: “Look next time I just want you to go for it. Go nuts.” So I did. I did a lot if improvisation and had a lot of fun and everybody was laughing and having a great time. But the scene got cut. And I asked them why and they said well there was so much craziness going on in the film that they needed me to be the center, the rock of sanity in the film. We can’t let everyone be crazy in the film.
SERGIO: But don’t you feel like you’re in a sort of straight jacket playing usually the rational, logical type of guy?
MORRIS: Well I really don’t have those sort of tendencies to do that. I’m already in straight jacket, so to speak. I don’t get in front of the camera and say: “O.K. let me be ON! And be funny and humorous and comical”. My instincts are to do more of what you saw.
SERGIO: So are you ever satisfied when you see your work on the screen or is there something in the back of your mind saying I could be better?
HALLE: You know, I think you can always do something better. My barometer is did I give the best that I had to give on that particular day dealing with whatever circumstances I came to work with. And if I’ve done that, then I’ve done my best. Could I do always do something better? I think I can do everything better all the time because nothing’s perfect. But I’m satisfied when I’ve known I’ve done my best. And on some days I’m dealing with a lot. I have a personal life. I have other issues that I’m dealing with. Some days I come to work with the weight of the world on my shoulders and I have to go do my job. So when I’ve done my best in spite of everything that I’m dealing with I’m happy. That’s a good day for me.
MORRIS: And I always think I can do better as well. And it’s strange with me because even when I’m on the set and I feel that I’m giving my all after I finished I say to myself: “Could I have done this better?” immediately afterwards. Then I’ll get mad and I’ll think about it all day. I’ll be thinking about Wednesday on Thursday and thinking: “Man I wish I could back and do it again.” And every time I see myself, every time I see myself, on the big screen, I wish I had made different choices.
(At this point someone comes in to indicate how much time I have left)
HALLE: She gave you the finger? (laughs)
SERGIO: Yes she gave me the finger. That’s the story of my entire sorry life, people giving me the finger.
HALLE: (laughing) She gave you the finger. (laughs)
SERGIO: Well more than one, but I want to ask you a question I always like to ask. What to do know now that you wish you had before you got into this business?
HALLE: (long pause…) Well. I wish that I had really understood the toll that it would take on my personal life. The invasion of my personal life that being an actor would cause. I really would have thought twice, three times, about it had I known 20 years ago that I wouldn’t be able to get gas in my car or take my daughter to school without a band of people following me. I’m not so sure I would have done this job.
SERGIO: So you’re saying that If you had known that you would have not gone into the acting profession?
HALLE: I’m not so sure I would have. If I had had a crystal ball and I could see the frenzy today 20 years ago… I used to want to be a journalist or be a nurse. I think I would have said: “You know what? I’m going to do something else.”
SERGIO: What about you?
MORRIS: I think the thing that I would have done differently is that I would have studied a lot more, study the craft a lot more. Because you can read a ot and study to get to a certain point but I wish had had a stronger foundation to do what I’m doing.
SERGIO: Let me ask you last time we met was about 5 or 6 years ago, a few months before your film Things We Lost in the Fire came out, and you were very open and honest, telling how hard you worked and auditioned and hustled to get that role and the struggles of being an actress and especially black actress. So all these years later, what’s the situation? Better, worse or still the same?
HALLE: It’s still a struggle, but I think being an actor is a struggle be you a man, a woman, black, white, whatever. It’s a tough business. And it’s being tougher with reality TV and social media. It’s become tougher in a different way for us to do what we do. So it’s tough. We have definitely made headway as black women and black people, sure. But yeah, it’s still a struggle. I still look for good scripts. A movie like this with roles for two women to be empowered, they don’t come around often for me. I’m searching and I’m searching and I have to start creating them for myself more. But they’re not out there, they’re just not out there.
SERGIO: So then the only answer is to just start creating your own projects.
HALLE: Yes, I have a production company that I have with my manager and I’ve picked up that ball and thrown it out there. But I would like to know that there movies like that that are being made. And I don’t want to make them just for myself, but I want to see all my sisters make movies and have their talent to be realized and to have them be fulfilled as artists. I just don’t want to do it just for me. I wish we had more opportunities.
SERGIO: So what’s it going to take?
HALLE: I don’t know, but if I did I would do that! (laughs) Oh, you got the finger again! (laughs)
SERGIO: Told you. The story of my life.