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May 2002
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Halle Berry

Is Halle Berry overqualified for the Bond picture show?
By Laurence Washington

Soon after Halle Berry stunned Hollywood by winning an Oscar for her riveting performance as the down trodden wife of a death row inmate in Monster’s Ball, critics and moviegoers began asking, "Isn’t Halle overqualified to star in a James Bond film?"

The answer is probably, "Yes."

Berry has been overqualified for Bond and movies such a Swordfish, way before winning an Oscar. But Hollywood is a chess game, and starring in high-profile films, such as 007’s Die Another Day, on the heels of Monster’s Ball, is a strategic move to avoid the Oscar’s "jinx of oblivion" a black hole for many actresses.

"It will keep me out there after winning an Oscar," Berry told Entertainment Tonight. "I can assure myself I'm not going to fall off into obscurity after that grounding achievement."

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Overqualified? (cont.)

"People love James Bond," Berry adds. "It's a big movie around the world. It's splashy, exciting, sexy, provocative and fun."

Berry is a smart, hard-working actress who showd audiences her dramatic acting chops 11 years ago in Jungle Fever. Moviegoers might remember Berry as a junkie who could use the "F" word like nobody else. You just wanted to go home a wash after being cursed out by her.

Hiring Berry to star in Die Another Day is also a strategic move on the part of Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Die Another Day, the 20th James Bond film marks the 40th anniversary of the series. Wilson and Broccoli can’t deliver the usual Bond fare, because the fans are expecting something special to celebrate Bond 20, and the duo have kept the plot as clandestine as an MI6 mission.

Enter Halle Berry as Jinx, who’s not telling whether she’s a villain or ally to Bond. With the exception of Honor Blackman (Goldfinger ‘64) and Jill St. John (Diamonds Are Forever ‘71), Bond producer’s female casting has seldom had anything to do with talent, probably because they don’t want Bond to be upstaged.

The worst case of casting were Tonya Roberts (A View To A Kill ‘85) and Denise Richards (The World Is Not Enough ‘99). Richards performance frankly stank on ice so bad, Tonya Roberts’ wooden performance looked like she was staring in Citizen Kane by comparison.

Even though there might have been a hint of Oscar in the air, the Bond producers had no idea that Berry would win. However, they had sense

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Overqualified? (cont.)

enough to know that after Richards, they needed a strong female co-star to carry the 20th James Bond adventure.

Berry’s opening shot mirrors Ursula Andress’s sultry entrance in (Dr. No. ‘62). Berry appears from the sea wearing a bikini hot enough to melt Bond’s British stiff upper lip.

Berry says she wouldn’t have done that scene if it wasn’t already in the script.

"How do you relive a moment that is probably one of the most remembered and loved images of any Bond women?" Berry says. However, she adds that her character Jinx is a fashionable and very sexy girl who takes fashion risks.

"I love her for that," Berry says.

In addition, Berry, whose getting to be known for firsts, is the first black actress to star in a leading role in a Bond picture. Bond creator Ian Flemming wrote the character of Solitaire in Live And Let Die ’73 as a black women. However, the producers felt the audience in 1973 wasn’t ready for that, and cast Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn) opposite Bond. They didn’t have any trouble, however, casting Yaphet Kotto as the head villain, Mr. Big. Nor did they hesitate 11 years later casting singer Grace Jones in the lead role of the villainous May Day in A View To A Kill. However, Berry is the first African-American to be cast in a Bond film with equal billing.


"It’s the best thing I could have done," Berry says.