The ‘Perfect Stranger’ revealed

Maggie Nepomuceno

For Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry, acting has become a source of empowerment, and her latest role in “Perfect Stranger,” opening tomorrow, is no exception.

In the new mystery thriller, Berry plays Rowena, “Ro,” an investigative reporter who discovers that the death of her childhood friend, Grace (Nicki Aycox), may be connected to ad executive Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis). With the help of her tech-savvy colleague Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), Ro goes undercover as a temp at Hill’s office and takes on an online persona to trap Hill.

It becomes a twisted tale of Internet obsession and hidden identity where nothing is what it seems.

Berry, who recently sat down with The Villanovan, explained that her character was someone she could connect with on a personal level.

“Although she was an investigative journalist, it wasn’t really about that,” Berry said. “It was more about this other journey, this journey of sort of finding her own power. I am certainly someone who relates to the notion of finding one’s power.

“I feel like I’ve been doing that my whole life, trying to find my power being a black girl raised by a white mother, always feeling like I didn’t fit in. It was something that just hit home with me. So through this process, I had a catharsis by the end of the movie. I got to work out my own issues.”

Since winning an Academy Award for her role in “Monster’s Ball” five years ago, Berry has seen little critical success with movies such as “Gothika” and “Catwoman,” which got her a Razzie Award for worst actress of 2004. Berry says it’s not about looking for roles that will get her another Oscar, but taking on things she’s never done before. However, she still proudly reflects on her Oscar moment.

“It was a big deal for me,” she said. “Maybe it’s not as big of a deal for other people. For me, I was having an out of body experience. I mean, huge.”

So where does she keep her golden statuette?

“It’s in my bedroom,” Berry said. “It’s there because I don’t like a lot of people to see or touch it, and most people don’t come in my bedroom. They’re always, when they come, ‘So where is it?’ I’m like, ‘You’re not going to see it. It’s here, but you’re not going to see it.’ I’m really protective of it.”

Though she broke down barriers as the first woman of African descent to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, she still feels that race continues to be an issue.

“I would love to be seen as an actress and that’s it,” she said. “We’re not quite there yet. I hope I live to see the day when we are there, but I think for now it’s part of my responsibility to talk about [race] and heighten awareness about it and deal with the issue. But I would love for the day to come when it’s not an issue.”

Berry also voiced her support for another black figure, 2008 presidential hopeful Barrack Obama.

“Not just because he’s a black man running, but I’ve read his book, and I’ve listened to him,” Berry said. “I agree with his politics. On a real level, I support him, and I support what he’s all about.”

Ribisi (“Saving Private Ryan”), who stars in “Perfect Stranger” alongside Berry, had only the greatest praise for his co-star.

“She’s just all of what you could imagine,” Ribisi said. “She’s really committed as an actor, and it’s always refreshing to work with somebody like that.”

For both Berry and Ribisi, the greatest pleasure was working with director James Foley (“Glengarry Glen Ross”) who, as Ribisi explained, was “just out of his mind and so creative and just so eccentric and would just scream at the top of his lungs for five seconds straight after you did something that he liked. He was sort of like a breath of fresh air especially if you were uncertain about things. If I felt like I was losing my footing, I could always rely on him. That was really one of the main reasons I got involved in the movie.”

Berry agreed. “At the end of the first take, James Foley said, ‘Oh yes!’ ” she said. “He just sort of set the tone for what the movie would be. Every take that he loved, that’s the response that we got. When he didn’t like it, he still said something good, but it was nice to have that kind of energy. It made for a really fun set.”

Ribisi thinks that “Perfect Stranger” will resonate with audiences for several reasons.

“It has an intellectualism by sort of navigating through all these different characters that each actor is playing with all these masks, but it also has an emotional foundation to it that I think is there from Halle specifically,” he said.

“It’s really intriguing, and I think it really grasps people.”