Pop Culture

At 40, Halle Berry is ready for anything

A day after getting her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Oscar winner Halle Berry was still radiating with the glow of someone who knew that while that moment would remain forever wonderful, eventually her name would be pooped on by some stray dog or spit upon by one of the more eccentric locals.

“Yeah, someone reminded me as I kissed the star that crack heads and drug addicts would be all over this,” Berry said while giggling. “And I’m like did you have to remind me?”

Berry’s spontaneous and emotional gesture during that ceremony speaks volumes about where she’s been as an award-winning actress and producer, as well as where she’s headed as a middle-aged woman. Since becoming the first African-American woman to win a best actress Oscar in 2002 for “Monster’s Ball,” Berry has been spit on by her unfaithful ex-husband Eric Benet, whom she divorced in 2005 after only four years of marriage.

And she’s been pooped on, too, by critics who almost unanimously panned her post-Oscar efforts “Gothika” and “Catwoman.”

It’s enough to make anyone a bit insecure.

But now that she’s 40, Berry not only has a new a film — “Perfect Stranger,” which hits theaters Friday — but a new attitude as well.

“I would say a magical thing happened on when the big 40th birthday came,” said Berry, dressed in a little black mini dress and with four-inch black patent leather open-toe heels. “I felt like a light kind of just went off, and maybe that’s because I felt like at 40 I had the right to say and be who I wanted to be, say what I wanted to say and accept what I didn’t want to accept. Maybe it was just me that felt the shift, but I do think I’ve gotten wiser and learned lots of lessons.”

Getting wiser, letting go
Berry, kind and generous to a fault, has learned that the only person she can really count on 24/7 is herself. She’s learned that she shouldn’t ever relive her past in the press because some things — — might make for some awkward and distressing moments during press junkets.  She’s learned the value of consistency. Berry, who is twice married and twice divorced, has said publicly that she’s through with marriage and apparently she means it.

And, perhaps the most important lesson she’s learned over the years is that she can’t get caught up in what people might think about her.

“Yeah, I’m getting there, slowly but surely,” Berry said wistfully. “It started when I turned 35, but at 40 it doesn’t matter what they say. Do they really care? Nobody goes home wondering what Halle Berry did and said.”

That might be true, but when you’re considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful women, tongues are gonna wag regardless. Throughout her career Berry’s looks have been her biggest asset and, at times, her biggest curse.

Emmy-winning casting director Robi Reed jumpstarted Berry’s feature film career by offering her a role in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever” in 1991. Reed said she knew then that Berry was more than just a pretty face.

“Here’s the awesome thing about Halle,” Reed said. “In ‘Jungle Fever’ she played the role of Vivian, a crack head, opposite Sam Jackson. She could have easily asked to be considered for one of the other roles, but she wanted to do it and totally put herself into it and did a wonderful job. I knew then that she was going to be something special.”

‘She just blew us all away’In her younger days Berry would often deflect questions about her beauty getting in the way of her being taken seriously as an actress. And if you look at her career, with the exception of her Emmy-winning turn in “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge,” Berry’s most celebrated performances have been in films in which she’s glammed down. That was the case in “Losing Isaiah,” her first meaty dramatic lead, and again in” Monster’s Ball.”

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    Image: Halle Berry Attends Red Carpet of the MovieThe Call in Rio de Janeiro

    Halle Berry

    From Bond Girl to Catwoman to her historic Oscar for "Monster's Ball," the actress has done it all.

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    Actress Halle Berry, 46, is expecting a baby with fiance Olivier Martinez, She's seen here attending the premiere of her movie "The Call" at Cine Leblon on April 11, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Berry has a four-year-old daughter, Nahla, with ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry.

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    Fashion forward -

    Fashion designer Michael Kors and Berry join the United Nations World Food Programme to help fight world hunger on April 6, 2013 in New York.

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  • 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals

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    Berry arrives at the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar party on Feb. 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, Calif.

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    In the 2013 thriller "The Call," Berry plays a 911 operator who finds herself swept up in a murderer's evil deeds.

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  • Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - January 18, 2013

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    Happy days -

    Berry and fiance Olivier Martinez stroll in Los Angeles on Jan. 18, 2013.

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    'Cloud Atlas' -

    Tom Hanks stars with Berry in the 2012 film "Cloud Atlas," based on David Mitchell's novel.

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    Hanks and Berry attend the premiere of "Cloud Atlas" in Berlin on Nov. 5, 2012. The film received mixed reviews.

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  • Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Cloud Atlas" - Arrivals

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    HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 24: Actors Olivier Martinez and Halle Berry arrive at Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Cloud Atlas' premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on October 24, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

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  • Revlon ColorStay Whipped Creme Makeup Launch

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    Berry attends the Revlon ColorStay Whipped Creme Makeup launch at the Gramercy Park Hotel on May 22, 2012 in New York.

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    Berry gets slimed at Nickelodeon's 25th Annual Kids' Choice Awards on March 31, 2012 in Los Angeles.

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  • US-ENTERTAINMENT-WHITNEY HOUSTON TRIBUTE SPECIAL

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    Remembering Whitney -

    Berry speaks on stage at the "We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute To Whitney Houston," television special in Los Angeles on Oct. 11, 2012.

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    New Year's Eve -

    Nurse Aimee New Year's Eve is a 2011 romantic comedy film directed by Garry Marshall. Like Valentine's Day, Marshall's previous film, it depicts a series of holiday vignettes of the state of several romances and features a large ensemble cast.

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    Frankie & Alice (2011)Frankie & Alice, for which Berry also served as a producer, is a moving psychological drama based on the harrowing true story of Frankie Murdoch (Berry), a woman suffering with multiple personality disorder in early 1970s Los Angeles.

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  • Image: Premiere Of "Frankie And Alice" - Arrivals

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    HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Actress Halle Berry attends the premiere of "Frankie and Alice" at the Egyptian Theatre on November 30, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

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  • DKMS' 4th Annual Gala: Linked Against Leukemia - Inside

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    Cause celeb -

    Actress Halle Berry attends the DKMS 4th Annual Gala "Linked Against Leukemia" at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on Thursday, April 29, 2010.

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    Berry and her daughter Nahla Aubry enjoy the day at Coldwater Canyon Park in Beverly Hills, Calif.

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  • Jenesse Center's 30th Anniversary Silver Rose Gala And Auction - Arrivals

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    Lucky man -

    Berry, right, is joined by, from left, singer Alicia Keys, singer Leona Lewis and actor Jamie Foxx at Jenesse Center's 30th Anniversary Silver Rose Weekend at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on April 18, 2010.

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  • 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

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    Always Golden -

    Berry poses in the press room at the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2010.

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  • Keep A Child Alive's 6th Annual Black Ball - Inside

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    Night out -

    Berry and Alicia Keys pose at Hammerstein Ballroom during the Keep A Child Alive's 6th Annual Black Ball on Oct. 15, 2009, in New York.

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    Sweet smell of success -

    In 2009, Berry released her first perfume, Halle by Halle Berry, from Coty. The actress said that she had been mixing scents to make her own fragrance even before her scent was released, mixing fig and mimosa with other components.

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  • Celebrity Sightings In Miami - July 8, 2009

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    Soaking up the sun -

    Berry gives daughter Nahla a taste of the Atlantic Ocean in Miami on July 8, 2009.

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  • Spike TV's Guys Choice - Show

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    On fire -

    Berry accepts the Decade of Hotness award at Spike TV's 2009 "Guys Choice Awards" on May 30, 2009 in Los Angeles.

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    Supporting families -

    In April 2008. Berry makes her first public appearance six weeks after delivering baby Nahla in March. Berry was at the Jenesee Center’s Silver Rose Gala & Auction, which helps families affected by domestic violence with emergency shelters, employment training, and counseling.

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    Baby on the way -

    A pregnant Berry arrives for the presentation of "Things We Lost in the Fire" at the Rome Film Festival, on Friday, Oct. 26, 2007.

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    Portraying loss -

    In 2007's "Things We Lost in the Fire," Berry portrayed Audrey Burke, a woman who lost her policeman husband (David Duchovny) and renews a friendship with his childhood pal (Benicio del Toro, left), a heroin addict.

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  • Premiere of DreamWorks' "Things We Lost in the Fire" - Afterparty

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    Hot stuff -

    Berry and model boyfriend Gabriel Aubry attend the afterparty for the premiere of her film "Things We Lost in the Fire" at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles on Oct. 15, 2007. On April 30, 2010, reports surfaced that the couple had split.

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    Undercover -

    In 2007's "Perfect Stranger," Berry plays reporter Rowena Price, who goes undercover to flirt with a senator (Bruce Willis, left) who may have killed her friend.

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    Just 'Perfect' -

    Berry attends a photocall for the film "Perfect Stranger" on March 30, 2007, in Berlin, Germany.

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  • Halle Berry Honored With A Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame

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    Berry attends a ceremony honoring her with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 3, 2007 in Hollywood, Calif.

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  • DODD BERRY BLICKSTEAD

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    Just desserts -

    With a grand parade, Harvard's Hasty Pudding honored Berry as its 2006 Woman of the Year. Before receiving the traditional brass pudding pot, the Cantebridgians were unwilling to let her off without a bit of ribbing: To mark her "Catwoman" role, they made her dance with a Pudding member dressed as a dog.

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    Woman of steel -

    Berry provided the voice of Cappy in 2005's "Robots." Director Chris Wedge gave each mechanism its own personality. After playing a live-action version of a comic-book figure in "X-Men," the film gave Berry the chance to portray an animated figure on screen.

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  • ABC & Oprah Winfrey Premiere "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

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    All 'Eyes' on her -

    Berry was a vision in pink for the 2005 premiere of ABC's TV adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God." As the lead character Janie in this Oprah-produced effort, Berry portrayed one of the most compelling characters in African-American literature. It won her another Emmy for best actress in a miniseries or movie.

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    Feeling catty -

    Berry's sex appeal was on display as she promoted her 2004 film "Catwoman." Audiences were less impressed once they entered the theaters, and the role scored her a 2005 Razzie for worst actress. Unlike most recipients of the ignominious award, Berry proved herself a class act when she showed up in person to accept. "If you aren't able to be a good loser, you're not able to be a good winner," she told the crowd.

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  • Halle Berry and Ashton Kutcher

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    Funny girl -

    Berry got a good laugh when Ashton Kutcher pulled a "Punk'd" prank on her for his MTV show. At the "Gothika" world premiere, Kutcher had a security guard deny Berry access, saying the theater was over capacity and 16 people needed to leave before she could enter.

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    Scary stuff -

    Berry's choice of roles took a turn for the darker in 2003's "Gothika." As criminal psychologist Dr. Miranda Grey, she found herself a patient in her own mental institution, accused of her husband's murder but with no memory of the alleged crime.

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    Storm surge -

    Berry reprised her role as mutant Storm in 2003's "X2." Though the "X-Men" series were undoubtedly popcorn movies, Berry brought depth to her comic-book character.

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    Again proving her range, Berry decided to join the ranks of Bond girls in 2002's "Die Another Day," playing against Pierce Brosnan's James Bond. As Jinx, she was Bond's right-hand woman, though some Bond fans felt the screenplay didn't do either Berry or Brosnan justice.

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  • US actress Halle Berry celebrates as she holds her

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    Making history -

    Halle Berry celebrates her win at the 2002 Oscars. Her win for "Monster's Ball" made her the first African American to win an Academy Award for best actress. In addition to thanking other talented black artists in her acceptance speech, Berry said her win was "for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."

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    A heavy 'Ball' -

    Berry's most profound role yet came in 2001's "Monster's Ball," where she played Leticia, the widow of an convict who falls in love with a man (Billy Bob Thornton, right) who helped execute her husband. The wrenching film, which included an intimate nude scene, won Berry her first Oscar.

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    Remembering the lost -

    Berry spoke onstage at the Oct. 2001 concert for New York City to benefit the victims of the World Trade Center disaster.

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    Vixen time -

    Berry and John Travolta played a black-ops duo in 2001's "Swordfish," a film remembered less for its plot than for including Berry's first topless scene. (Rumors swirled that she received $2 million for the effort, a claim she and the studio have repeatedly denied.)

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  • Actress Halle Berry holds her trophy for the "Lead

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    A winning choice -

    Berry's six-year struggle to bring "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" to the screen paid off when she won a 2000 Emmy for best lead actress in a miniseries or movie.

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    Playing an icon -

    One of Berry's most heartfelt personal projects was to portray actress Dorothy Dandridge, the first African American woman to be nominated for an Oscar. It took Berry six years to bring the story to the small screen for HBO, but her turn in the starring role was flawless, and her other role -- as the TV movie's producer -- established her as a force in Hollywood on both sides of the camera.

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  • 'X-Men' Premiere

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    Halle's guy -

    Berry showed up (and showed skin) at the 2000 premiere of "X-Men" with jazz musician Eric Benet. The couple would marry the following year -- a second marriage for Berry, after her first one to baseball player David Justice ended in a 1996 divorce. She and Benet separated in 2004, and after their 2005 divorce, Berry stated she never wanted to be married again. She has a daughter with model Gabriel Aubry.

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    Getting her due -

    Berry was a radiant presence at the 1998 Blockbuster Awards. She won a 1997 Blockbuster Award for her role as a flight attendant aboard a hijacked plane in "Executive Decision." Not a film for the ages, but with it, Berry added action-adventure to the list of genres she could master.

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    Hair today -

    Director Robert Townsend loves to send up black stereotypes, but you could hardly accuse his 1997 film "B.A.P.S." of tackling the obvious. As wannabe actress Nisi, Berry costarred in this comedy about race and the high life in Beverly Hills. Berry and Natalie Desselle, right, find themselves living with an aging millionaire (Martin Landau) and learning to become Black American Princesses, hence the title. An usual choice for Berry, but proof she wanted a varied choice of roles.

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    'Sun'-shine -

    Berry received top billing in the undernoticed 1996 drama "Race the Sun," as she played a teacher determined to inspire Hawaiian high-schoolers. She drives them to build a solar-powered car that eventually powers them across Australia. The inspiring-teacher genre was already well worn by then, but Berry brought a subtle touch to the role.

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    Stone cold -

    Berry's earlier career wasn't all serious. She also brought an edge to her role as villainess Rosetta Stone in the 1994 live-action adaptation of "The Flintstones." Betty and Wilma were hard-pressed to compete.

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    Feeling the 'Fever' -

    Halle Berry's first major role came in 1991, when she played drug addict Vivian in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever." The down-and-dirty role (literally -- she reportedly refused to bathe for days before filming) established Berry early on as a serious talent and much more than a pretty face. The cred was doubly important because of Berry's background as a beauty queen and Miss USA runner-up.

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“Taking that role showed just how gutsy she is,” said her “Monster’s Ball” costar Billy Bob Thornton. “I had no idea at the time that she had that kind of performance in her. She just blew us all away with her performance and her willingness to play such an unglamorous character.

“But I’ll tell you one thing. She still looked good without an ounce of makeup on.”

Berry’s far more fetching in “Perfect Stranger,” a thriller in which she plays Rowena Price, an investigative reporter infiltrating an ad company in hopes of nailing the suspected killer (Bruce Willis) of a childhood friend. Director James Foley couldn’t stop singing Berry’s praises during the recent junket to promote the film.

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    Actor Mickey Rourke is seen at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

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    Actress Jordana Brewster waves outisde of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

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    Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam attends G. Garvin Live at Buckhead Theatre on Aug. 7 in Atlanta.

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    Actress Reese Witherspoon is seen on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

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    Singer Miley Cyrus performs in concert at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 7 in Nashville.

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    The stars of "Expendables 3," from left, Kellan Lutz, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes attend "Expendables 3" at Cinema UGC Normandie on Aug. 7 in Paris.

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    Actor Robert Pattinson speaks during the Meet The Filmmakers event for "The Rover" at Apple Store, Regent Street on Aug. 7 in London.

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    Actors Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman are spotted filming Bateman's "The Family Fang" in Westchester, New York, on Aug. 7.

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    Grammy-nominated artist Akon, who is the founder of Akon Lighting Africa Project, discusses at the US-Africa Leaders Summit "Africa: New Parnership Models for Growth" news conference, held in Washington, DC, on Aug. 7, the progress that African heads of state have made.

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“She was meant to play this part,” he said. “She has an incandescent beauty that radiates inside and out. No matter what she does, you don’t judge her. She’s 98 percent likeable. She knows she’s beautiful and takes it as a fact, but doesn’t define herself in that way.”

Sure enough Berry, the offspring of a white mother and an African-American father, is comfortable in that pretty skin.

“I think that also comes with being 40,” she said. “I’ve become really comfortable with my sexuality and I don’t make excuses for it anymore.  It’s a part of being a woman and it’s what empowers us when we’re smart enough to know how to use it. The character of Ro certainly knew how to use it and I think I’ve been learning as I’ve gotten older. I’ve become comfortable with that side of who I am. In the beginning I used to have to downplay it because I wanted to be taken more seriously as a thespian and as an artist and as an actor, so I played crack heads to disguise myself.”

Golf, screenwriting — Halle does it allThe real Halle Berry is a drug-free Cleveland native who avoids the Hollywood scene like the Bird Flu. She’s the kind of person who makes everyone in the room feel like they matter. She’s a woman who loves shoes, her dogs, her “really cute boyfriend” model Gabriel Aubry, and golf, even though she hates the clothes.

“Can someone, somewhere come up with some really cute outfits that I can wear? I hate the clothes,” she said.

She’s also a talented writer who was editor of her high school newspaper and briefly studied journalism in college before heading off to Chicago to become a model. Berry has even completed a couple of screenplays that she hopes to produce some day if she “gets the courage.”

“One is a comedy,” Berry says. “I’ve realized I have to write one for myself because that’s the only way I’m going to get one! So, I wrote that. One is a thriller and the other one is only half done.”

And even though she’s had her share of PR mishaps—the dual divorces from Benet and first husband David Justice, that messy auto accident back in 2000 in which she fled the scene, and having to dodge all those stones thrown at her after “Catwoman,” Berry has always been able to bounce back with grace and dignity. She doesn’t shy away from the “hard” questions.

“I’m fair game,” Berry says. “People ask me the unthinkable questions and I’m constantly asked personal questions and things that I don’t really want to talk about but I know the name of the game so there have been certain times where I’m willing to disclose certain aspects of my personal life — especially those that I think might help someone else.”

Ready to shed her famed locksBerry thinks that one of her upcoming films, “Nappily Ever After,” might help women with self-esteem issues. Berry will play a character who decides to shave her head after her hair starts falling out.

“As a woman we define ourselves by our hair,” she said. “And I know I always have my whole life. If my hair’s not right, then I’m just not right. And many days I won’t leave the house if my hair’s not right. So, I’m going to shave my head on screen and hopefully that can help women who are also slaves to their hair find some freedom from that bondage.”

Berry’s “Perfect Stranger” costar Giovanni Ribisi thinks that bald will become even more beautiful when Berry sheds her locks. He applauds her “fearlessness.” But chances are there will be some folks who will be pooping on her decision to take it all off. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. Even though her work is often validated by the responses of her fans — many of whom she says loved “Catwoman” — she won’t be adversely affected if they diss her buzz cut.

“I know every time — good or for bad — that I give 100 percent of what I have to give in that moment,” Berry says emphatically. “I make choices based on what’s happening in my life at that moment. Sometimes it’s what I need to do for personal reasons, sometimes for the art of it. So, knowing that I made decisions for the right reason, I can live with that no matter what the outcome.”

Miki Turner is a freelance TV producer/writer in Los Angeles. She can be reached at .

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