Playboy: When you finally landed your first movie, it was as an addict in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. Did you finally feel like a serious actor?
Berry: I don't know how seriously anybody took me, but it got me away from that beauty pageant model stigma, because that's all I had done up until then. My first acting job was playing a model on television. So the movie gave me a chance to show a different side of myself. It also proved the kind of chances I was willing to take.
Playboy: For Jungle Fever you interviewed real-life addicts and you didn't bathe for 10 days prior to filming. For The Last Boy Scout you danced at a strip club in Hollywood. How important is it for you to do research?
Berry: If I'm playing a character that lives a life that I have no basis to relate to, then I have to go do something. When I did Jungle Fever, I'd never seen crack, a crack pipe or a crack addict. Once I got that part I went to a real crack den with an undercover policeman.
Playboy: Do you plan to get out of the business before your face drops?
Berry: Yeah, that's why I'm not worried about anybody feeling sorry for me when my face drops. I'll be the first one to say, "Thank you, it's been a nice life." I wouldn't want the pressure to compete. I will go find something else to do.
Playboy: Would you ever consider surgery to keep your face from dropping?
Berry: No, I'm dead set against that.
Playboy: Do you ever worry about your boobs sagging?
Berry: They sag now [laughs].
Playboy: A lot of people credit the success of Swordfish to your boobs.
Berry: I don't know what that says about the movie if that was the highlight, but I felt good doing it. I took all the comments, both good and bad, with a grain of salt. I faced my fears, I grew.
Playboy: Didn't your husband, Eric, encourage you to do the topless scene?
Berry: Yes. He saw me struggling with it and he asked me why. He could see that my concern was with what other people would think. He said, "Look at every sculpture and painting in our house, which you have chosen. They're all of the naked form. You obviously dig it, so what's your problem?" I said, "I guess I'm worried what people think about me. They don't expect me to do this." And he said, "Why are you living for the expectations of other people? Live for yourself. Do you want to do it?" It was that simple. But he helped me realize I was being stifled by it.
Playboy: Eventually you said there was no explanation for appearing topless, you did it because you wanted to.
Berry: It was liberating to do it, have it come out and not care what people thought about it.Yeah, it was gratuitous, but so what? I wanted to do it, and guess what? I'm allowed to. I think my presence in that movie helped the box office.
Playboy: You turned down the role in Speed that made Sandra Bullock's career. Do you regret it?
Berry: The film you saw was not the script I read. That bus never left the parking lot. I was too green to know that what's on the page today isn't going to be on the page tomorrow. Also, I had just gotten married and was feeling the pressure to be a wife and not to be away for three months.
Playboy: You took the initiative and proposed to your first husband, David Justice. In retrospect, is it better when the man proposes?
Berry: I don't think so. That would be such a blanket statement. Every situation is different. I joked about it, saying the next time I was going to wait to be asked. But in all seriousness, it depends. I've known lots of women who have proposed to their husbands -- men who were dragging their feet, afraid of it. Women have biological clocks, we have certain goals and dreams for ourselves, and sometimes we have to present that to the men in our relationships.
Playboy: Did you worry when you were proposing to Justice that you might get rejected?
Berry: No. I kind of knew he wanted to; it didn't come out of the blue. My attitude was, If we're going to do this, let's just do it. What are we waiting for?
Playboy: Did you find that a lot of men were intimidated by your looks?
Berry: I've lived most of my life dateless, or if I liked someone I had to let him know, because he wouldn't approach me otherwise. I got used to that. I became a little more aggressive.
Playboy: Do women want men to be dominant in a relationship?
Berry: Not dominant, but women want men to be strong and know where they are going. When I thought about becoming a wife, I wanted very much to have a husband that I could honor and respect and follow. But I want a man who knows where he's going. I don't want anybody to dictate where I have to go; I want to willingly be able to follow when it's appropriate.
Playboy: You were once in an abusive relationship. Did you feel you were reliving your childhood?
Berry: Yes, because I saw it as a kid, and I swore it would never happen to me. And when it did, I took off running as far as I could go. It's very shocking. You never expect anybody to haul off and punch you.
Playboy: You have vowed never to disclose the name of the person who hit you in your ear and caused you to lose 80 percent of your hearing. Why would you want to protect someone who did that to you?
Berry: It's not really protecting that person. I have never been one to kiss and tell, or say something that would hurt someone else when it doesn't matter. Whenever I tell my story, what matters is that it happened to me. Who actually did it is not at all important.
Playboy: You don't wear a hearing aid -- can you hear everything around you?
Berry: Yes. Over the years it's gotten better. I don't think I need to wear one.
Playboy: You've said that David cheated on you -- with prostitutes, strippers, every twinkie walking by with a skirt." Why would someone cheat on Halle Berry?
Berry: I'm trying to understand it, too. [Embarrassed laughter] The sad part is, when that happens you think, What's wrong with me? I've learned that it's not about me. You have to ask that person, "What is going on with you that keeps you from staying committed? If you don't want to be committed, just leave. Why do the dance and play the game and tell the lies and live the deceit?"
Playboy: Is it easier now for you to leave when you know something's wrong?
Berry: Yeah. I didn't do that in marriage the first time because I took those vows really seriously and I thought you just had to work it out. I thought I'd marry once and be married for life, ready to deal with the ups and downs. I'm realistic, I know that's what marriage is -- there's no perfect marriage, it's not a fantasy, it's real. People are human, they make mistakes. They have desires, and they have to confront them. It's hard. I was always willing to fight the good fight, but it takes two people.
Playboy: You've admitted to having temper tantrums.
Berry: I have had a couple, but it takes a lot. The reason my tantrums are so out of control is that I take a lot, take a lot. When I'm pushed I'm not one to have little outbursts along the way. When it gets to a certain point, all hell breaks loose. I'm working at trying to let it out along the way instead of letting it build up.
Playboy: So, after being married to a professional ballplayer, how keen are you about sports?
Berry: I won't even go there, what I'm going to say about sports. [Laughs] Since that divorce I haven't watched one professional sporting event. The good thing about Eric, and the reason I knew he was meant to be my husband, is that when I met him he knew nothing about sports. We watch no sports.
Playboy: You have said Eric Benét loves you with all your flaws and inconsistencies and double standards. What are they?
Berry: I'm really driven, and that can be a turnoff to some people. I'm impatient. What's good for me isn't necessarily good for somebody else. But that's part of my controlling personality. I know what I'm going to do, but I never know what the next person is going to do, and that comes from the general mistrust I have had since I was a kid, of being abandoned, being left -- I always assume somebody's going to do that. I've fought really hard to control situations to ensure that that doesn't happen. But I now realize there's no way to do that.
Playboy: You're stepmom to Eric's daughter. Do you plan to have children?
Berry: I hope so. I hope I won't miss it.
Playboy: The National Enquirer reported that you've been having problems with your marriage and that your husband, Eric, was treated for sex addiction. Any truth to that?
Berry: What's going on in my personal life is so new that I'm not in a position to talk about it at this time. I'm not sure what's going on.
Playboy: Is your marriage in trouble?
Berry: I don't think I'm in trouble. I don't feel trouble right now. I feel this is the hard day you talk about when you stand there and take those vows -- the good and the bad. Well, this might be that not-so-good day. But trouble? I think this is what marriage is.
Playboy: Is part of the problem that you've been away shooting Die Another Day and the X-Men sequel?
Berry: No. It's marriage. I'm one who is down for the long haul in marriage, and I've always had a realistic view of it. Especially in my first marriage, where I knew that nothing's perfect. We're at a time in our marriage where I really want to be married. Not everything will be perfect, and that's really what I'm dealing with. It's so new for me, I don't think it's right to talk about it anymore.
Playboy: You've said you're not what you appear to be. What is it you think you appear to be?
Berry: People think I'm more fragile than I am. They think I'm weak, but I'm not. They think, Oh, I've got to help her, she's a fragile damsel in distress. That's not me at all. Or they think I'm just a Barbie doll, and that's not me either.
Playboy: You pled no contest to leaving the scene of a car collision in West Hollywood. Was that plea fair, or was it something your lawyers advised you to do?
Berry: It was fair -- it was what I wanted to do. Clearly I had enough money to have fought it until the cows came home, but that wasn't what I was interested in doing. I always took responsibility for being there. I went to the hospital and reported it myself. But I didn't drive off intentionally. I never would do that. I wasn't trying to hide or escape something. With my head injury, I did something I can't explain. I blacked out.
Playboy: Do you remember it?
Berry: No, and I've been told I probably never will.
Playboy: Didn't you talk to a doctor about it?
Berry: Yes. A lot of them told me I was lucky I didn't black out longer than I did. Sometimes people get that kind of head injury and lose two or three days. But I still grapple with it. I can't explain it, and I want to be able to do that. To understand it for myself. It's disconcerting.
Playboy: Were there any drugs or alcohol involved in that accident?
Playboy: What kinds of injuries did you and the other person suffer?
Berry: I had 23 stitches in my head. She had a broken wrist.
Playboy: You were found guilty of leaving the scene, and you accepted the sentence -- three years of probation and a $13,500 fine. But in retrospect, you are not happy about it, are you?
Berry: I believe in karma, so I felt if that's what the judge gave me, I was ready and willing to do it, because I want to be right with the world. I obviously did something you shouldn't do -- you should not drive away. I felt the need to take responsibility. I couldn't say I was guilty, because I didn't do it on purpose, but I could say I did it, so I pled what the court wanted me to plead.
Playboy: You've said the car accident was "the start of me being released from that need to be liked." Was that the positive that came out of it?
Berry: That was the positive, and the catalyst for all these great things that have happened in my career, because I let that go. Just like I can say I don't care what the critics say, or what Angela Bassett has to say. I don't care what anybody has to say, because I'm now on a solo journey, realizing that's what life is really about. Not judging myself through the eyes of other people anymore. And the accident was the start of that.
Playboy: Which of your films are you most disappointed with?
Berry: I was disappointed that more people didn't see Losing Isaiah. I don't think I've ever been that heartbroken over a box-office failure of a movie. I put a lot of hard work into that.
Playboy: Did you learn anything from working with Jessica Lange?
Berry: What I learned from Jessica was that you have to respect everybody's way of working. She didn't want to talk to me or know me. She didn't want to have anything to do with me, because she wanted to use that for her character. I was disappointed, because I was hoping to pick her brain -- she started off in modeling, too. But I didn't get to do that.
Playboy: In X-Men 2 you revisit your cartoon character, Storm. How is this movie different from the original?
Berry: It was different shooting it, because we did it before, so it was more like old home week. A lot of new characters were integrated into the old script.
Playboy: Was it any more of an acting challenge for you?
Berry: No, it's still a cartoon to me. It's really about the special effects. They've done the best they can at making a story out of it, but for me it's pretty much a lot of action. If you liked the first one, you're going to love the second.
Playboy: Did you do your own stunts?
Berry: Yes. Storm actually flies. They put me in a harness, attached it to a wire, and I flew over water.
Playboy: Six years ago you were mugged in the parking garage of the Beverly Center in Los Angeles.
Berry: That was pretty scary. I was walking out with all my bags, and a guy came out of nowhere. He stuck something in my back, I don't know what it was, but I assumed it could have hurt me. He asked me for all the things in my purse. I was ready to strip down, to give up everything. I would have been butt-naked if that was what was needed. He took everything I had and then left.
Playboy: It's been reported that you buy G-strings from Victoria's Secret and then tea-stain them to match your skin tone. How do the tabloids get these details?
Berry: I don't know. I have never done that. You know where they get it from? One of the two stylists I work with might do that. And when they buy them, maybe they tell somebody that they tea-stain them. All I know is when I get them, they're the color of my skin. How they do it, I don't know.
Playboy: You've had a remarkable ascent in a short time. Do you feel satisfied?
Berry: No. The minute I'm satisfied, I die. The minute I stop wanting something else, or setting a new goal, that's when I'm done.