Halle Berry is ‘purrrfect’, as she cracks the whip in movie Catwoman

Halle Berry is ‘purrrfect’, as she cracks the whip in movie Catwoman

Aldore D. Collier

Halle Berry cracks a mean whip, takes on greedy villains and remains a supersexy feline in the film Catwoman.

In the movie, Berry plays Patience Philips, a true doormat of a woman. Patience is a mild-mannered graphic artist who lets any and everyone walk all over her. She works for a huge cosmetics concern, Hedare Beauty, headed by the tyrant George Hedare (Lambert Wilson) and his model wife, Laurel (Sharon Stone).

Patience’s life changes forever when she overhears a conversation that reveals the company’s anti-aging product has major flaws. As a result, Patience is murdered.

But not for long! Strange and mysterious forces somehow intervene and Patience comes back. And this time she is a totally different woman. She now has strength, agility and very keen senses. This new woman is no longer just Patience; she is a seductive, purring cat-like creature who delicately balances good and evil.

As Catwoman, she is back on the prowl with a vengeance, ready to settle a few old scores. And, unlike the old Patience, this new person is going to have some big fun.

Catwoman’s exploits cause problems for Patience as she develops a relationship with a handsome, morally-upstanding police officer, Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt).

Berry told JET that unlike in the comic books or the 1960s television series, Catwoman of the 21st century is not all villain. “She’s more the anti-hero,” she explained. “Unlike Superman, Spiderman or Batman, she won’t save the world. She’s kind of a heroic character, but she’s also got kind of a naughty/nice quality to her, too. There’s definitely something naughty about her. She’s not villainous. That’s our new take on her. She has an edge and she represents more of who people really are. She’s a realistic heroine. Nobody’s perfect and we all fall prey to our desires. And sometimes our desires aren’t too admirable. Sometimes she falls prey to those.”

Catwoman first debuted in 1940 in the DC Comics Batman #1. And she was definitely a sleek and sexy villain then. In the 1960s, Batman was a hit television series and the only female villain was Catwoman. Eartha Kitt, Lee Merriweather and Julie Newmar played the red-hot feline at different points in the series. Kitt was the first Black woman ever to get such a coveted role on television.

Berry vividly recalled having been awestruck when she was a kid in Cleveland and saw Kitt sexily purring on the screen in those leotards.

“When I saw Eartha, I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew it was important and that I connected to it and felt good about myself after watching her,” she said. “But, as a kid I didn’t know the magnitude of it. But now, I’m reviving something she originated.”

And she’s adding her own spin to the role of the revered and reviled feline. Berry said she really got into using that sexy and dangerous whip that Catwoman keeps.

“You can’t just get a whip and say, ‘I’ll just crack it.’ It doesn’t work that way,” she explained. “It’s a piece of equipment where if you don’t know how to work it very well, it can be deadly. And if you don’t know how to do it well, you can injure yourself. It’s something that I worked very hard on. And it’s very sexy! When you get your first crack, you just want to keep on cracking. It’s addictive. I loved it so much that I would have to be told, ‘Halle, put the whip down. The class is over. Go away, you’re done.’ The whole time I shot the movie, on my downtime I was practicing the whip. Getting it to crack loud takes practice. I gave Oprah one on her show, and I think she’s still trying to crack it.”

The movie shows stark contrasts occupying the same body. Patience is meek and modest and Catwoman exhibits bold and flirtatious behavior. Also, Patience is completely insecure and Catwoman defines confidence and strength.

Berry recalled that playing the role was empowering for her. “I felt empowered and strong and sexy–connected with myself as a woman.” Besides the stark personality contrasts, Berry said of the movie: “This is a popcorn-eatin’, ass-whoopin’ summer action adventure.”

Bratt described Lone as “a straight shooter. He’s a detective who is good at his job, and who believes in right and wrong, black and white–there’s not a lot of gray area in the world for him. So, it presents an interesting problem when he develops feelings for someone who may or may not be involved in some shady dealings.”

Although Catwoman has somewhat of a villainous side to her, she’s not the only one. So is Laurel Hedare. The producers chose Sharon Stone to play the glamorous beauty queen.

“I enjoyed playing this part because I get the joke about Laurel,” Stone said. “I will not go around saying I’m 35 because I just don’t believe in that. But Laurel does bow to the pressure from society to stay young at all costs, to be perfect–to be more, as the Hedare slogan says. I really like what this movie has to say about finding out who you are and then giving yourself the power to just be yourself. No more, no less, just yourself.”

The film took producer Denise Di Novi nine years to get to the big screen. “It took her nine years to get a studio to believe that a woman lead in a superhero movie like this would fly and people would come to see it,” Berry said. “It was her passion. I got involved when it was ready to go.”

She could easily relate to the lengthy period it takes to get a passionate dream to the screen. Berry recalled that it took her seven years to get the award-winning Introducing Dorothy Dandridge to the screen. “It was hard to convince them that people do want to hear about the struggles of a woman. Society is changing and people will come out.”

And Berry is hoping that Black audiences will come out and support the movie in big numbers. She is aware that the summer is the time studios wheel out their blockbusters and movies that don’t score with audiences immediately can be yanked very quickly.

“The more people come out and support people of color, the more opportunities we’ll get to do them.”

And the Catwoman role marks the first time a woman of color has ever been chosen as a lead in a big-budget action/adventure movie. Berry is optimistic and hopeful that it won’t be the last.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Johnson Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group