Halle Berry defies expectations 

The mystique of Oscar can be so unfair. After winning an Academy Award for 2001’s "Monster’s Ball," Halle Berry has often heard critics and fans who say she still needs to prove herself by taking dramatic roles. Why do "Catwoman" when you can make something more meaningful? Because Berry isn’t interested in what other people think — she’s too busy trying to please herself.

"Expectations were pretty low of me before I won an Oscar," Berry says, adding that it would be "career suicide" to be concerned with what others expect of her. "It’s about how you sustain acareer. I’ve been in this business for 20 years now, and it’s about how you continue to stay relevant, work and contribute."

In "Perfect Stranger," which opened Friday, Berry plays Rowena, a muckraking journalist who writes under a male nom-de-plume and regularly assumes false identities when researching stories. After her childhood friend Grace (Nicki Aycox) tells her about the affair she had with advertising bigwig Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis) and ends up dead soon thereafter, Ro poses as a temp at Hill’s office to see if he was behind Grace’s murder.

"The movie wasn’t so much about being a journalist; it was about this woman who was trying to get her power in life," says Berry, who in a form-fitting designer dress and full makeup looks even more beautiful in person than on screen. "She’d been so battered and beaten down by the hands of a man in both her personal and professional life since she was a kid, so it was about getting her power back and realizing who she is."

Understandably, finding Ro’s identity was tough because she was constantly pretending to be someone else. "It was a challenge for me to see if I could manipulate the audience to be with me through the journey," Berry says. "There were many days when I shot all three versions of Ro all in one day, and it got to be a little tricky if I didn’t have an organized way of which character I had to be at each moment."

"She’s the consummate professional," says co-star Giovanni Ribisi, who plays Ro’s assistant, Miles. "She was prepared every day and was willing to try new things to make the film as good as it could be."

At age 40, Berry remains dedicated, focused and driven to continue her career with both independent films (she just finished the low-budget "Things We Lost in the Fire," due October 2007) and blockbusters.

So don’t tell her she still has something to prove. She already knows.

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