Winning an Academy Award is usually the dawn of a new era for most actors; being recognized as the best in their craft often opens up a whole new world, granting opportunities to star in bigger, more high profile projects that will solidify them as names to watch. But for Halle Berry, winning an Oscar had the opposite effect — if anything, it actually slowed down the trajectory of her career.
In 2002, Berry took home the Oscar for Best Actress after captivating the film industry with her gritty role in the dark drama Monster's Ball. The achievement was historic, making her the first Black woman to ever win the award in that category and only the third Black woman to nab an acting Oscar (Hattie McDaniel and Whoopi Goldberg paved the way, but in the Supporting Actress category). Berry was blown away by the honor and felt genuinely excited, just knowing that things were about to change for the better.
But in the years to follow, the actress found that she wasn't receiving the same type of acting opportunities that her fellow Oscar-winners were picking and choosing from. Sure, she was offered roles in blockbusters like the X-Men franchise and even a gig as a Bond girl in Die Another Day, but Berry still had to fight tooth and nail for every role that she got, even with an Oscar to show for her talent.
Post-Oscar's win, top directors weren't beating down her door, and as a result, the projects that Berry did sign on to star in weren't exactly Monsters Ball material. Catwoman is still widely regarded as one of the worst superhero movies of all time, and the flurry of action movies she starred in weren't too well received either. The "Oscars curse" had boxed her in.
More frustrating than the limited acting roles was the fact that her 2002 win didn't lend to other Black women in Hollywood being able to share that same honor down the line. Berry told Variety that being the only Black woman to win Best Actress to this day is "one of [her] biggest heartbreaks."
"I thought there were women that rightfully, arguably, could have, should have [won in the category]," she lamented. "I hoped they would have, but why it hasn’t gone that way, I don’t have the answer.”
"The morning after [my Oscars win], I thought, ‘Wow, I was chosen to open a door.’ And then, to have no one...I question, ‘Was that an important moment, or was it just an important moment for me?’" Berry continued. "I wanted to believe it was so much bigger than me. It felt so much bigger than me, mainly because I knew others should have been there before me and they weren’t.”
Like so many other Black women in Hollywood, Berry has learned over the years that she doesn't have the luxury of waiting for a window to open up. That's why Berry has expanded her skillset to producing and directing, which empowers her to build her own worlds in a way that she was never allowed to when she was just following a script. Her producer credits include the CBS sci-fi drama Extant and BET's Boomerang remake, and she'll be putting on her director's hat for the forthcoming sports drama Bruised, in which she also stars as a woman who takes up MMA fighting late in life.
Berry is doing it all now because she can — but also because she knows firsthand that she has to create her own opportunities in Hollywood.
"As an actor, I always show up and do my part, and I can only do what I can do,” Berry explained. “Being the director, I have a part in the totality of every department. I get to have a voice."