Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz One-on-One
When she became the African-American woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress, for her performance in Monster's Ball, Halle brought the house to its feet with these words: "This moment is so much bigger than me. It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened." Penelope took Best Supporting Actress honors for Vicky Cristina Barcelona and warned the audience that she might be the first winner to faint onstage. This year, she's up for a second statue for her performance as Guido's mistress Carla in Nine.
Halle and Penelope sat down in New York City to talk about winning, the true joy of acting and their favorite places on earth.
Penelope: My main fear was to not have a panic attack and not faint because I thought I was this close to stepping into the other side.
Halle: I stepped into the other side. I don't even remember getting up. I don't even remember really standing there. I remember Russell Crowe saying: "Breathe, mate. You've got to breathe, mate." I didn't write anything; it sort of was just pouring out of me.
Penelope: You didn't write anything?
Halle: I didn't write a speech—I really didn't think I was going to go up there. I thought, "This has been a nice ride and lots of good recognition," but the Oscar just seemed unobtainable for me. So no, I didn't write anything, to my regret.
Penelope: No, but it was amazing. It was so from your heart, it was beautiful. … When I saw you in that movie I was screaming. I was happy that such an amazing actress like you had found that role to express yourself that way, because it is mind-blowing what do in that movie. … When I saw that scene [on the sofa], I was so blown away by how great you were. And I don't mean about showing your body; I could see that woman's soul.
Halle: People often say that must have been hard, but it wasn't me up there. I totally had surrendered to that character. I knew one boob was going this way, one was going that way and I just totally didn't connect to that part of my physical self at all. Me as a person got to evaporate and just emerge through someone else that's the best feeling and the most joy I ever have on a movie set. So thank you.
Penelope: That's a great way to explain it. And when that happens for me, that's true happiness. I look for that connection. I look for that experience that is a high. You fly. It's so hard to find.
Halle: Did you fly in Nine? Because I thought you flew, I thought you were sexy from the inside out.
Penelope: Thank you, Halle.
Penelope: I think that that's hard. I never feel safe showing 100 percent of who I am. Of course, I feel much more relaxed today because I am talking to you. I don't really show myself, who I am or my sense of humor or my sense of humor about myself…
Halle: That brings me to what I would say. I would want people to know that I'm really funny. I don't think people think that I'm funny.
Penelope: And you are very funny…
Halle:But nobody knows I'm funny! I want people to know I'm funny and I do have a sense of humor and I laugh at myself and I find the funny in everything and everybody else. … I know my life changed profoundly when I won my Academy Award®. Has your life changed? One thing, you'll always be Oscar winner Penelope Cruz.
Penelope: It gives you some confidence, that's for sure. It's the respect and the love from your peers.
Halle:When I won an Academy Award, I remember feeling this enormous amount of pressure because now I had this award and I felt like I had to live up to it. I got a beautiful letter written to me by an actress that I really, really admire and she said to me, "You know, winning the Academy Award isn't always the best thing that can happen to one's career." It was Diane Keaton, and I realized what she meant because there's this pressure that then comes in and sits on your shoulders and you're expected to now live up to having it. So I felt a dilemma for a while. I felt like, "How am I going to navigate my career now with this pressure that's sat down on me?" So I decided to kick it in the face and laugh at it and say, "You know what, I'm not going to live up to it. I may never win another one, but you know what, you can't take away the one I have."
Penelope: I think I would be a dancer.
Halle: I would say that'd be good.
Penelope: A dancer or I would be a travel agent. I love organizing all the trips for all my friends and family and even sometimes for strangers. I love that, and I don't know why. What about you?
Halle: I would probably be a therapist. Or I would be an interior decorator. I'm a closet interior decorator.… What film could you watch over and over and over?
Penelope: 81/2 I've watched many times and it's one of my favorite films of all time. You?
Halle: You know what I would watch over and over is Fatal Attraction. I remember where I was when I saw that movie, and I just felt like Glenn Close was out-of-the-box amazing.
Penelope: She was incredible in that movie. So scary. He was great too.
Halle: Yeah, he was very good. They were good together. Favorite place to be?
Penelope: At the beach. Anywhere with hot weather. You?
Halle: Any place with my daughter. Any place on the planet, as long as she were there, it would be a good place.
Penelope: I understand.
Halle: It's not like a relationship with a man. They come and they go; you may be with someone forever or you may not. I will always be her mother, and she will always be my daughter. And nothing ever changes that.... So this year you're going to the Academy Awards, nominated, but you're also a winner because you won last year. So how does that make you feel? Anything? It is somehow different?
Penelope: I don't have the nerves of "Oh I might win," because I know that for sure I will not win.
Halle: Now, how do you know that?
Penelope: No, because I won last year. I don't even want to want to win, because I would feel so greedy. This is so much more than I ever dreamed. … So what you are doing Sunday, the day of the Oscars?
Halle: I am going to be in my pj's with a glass of wine at home and just watching from afar this year and rooting for my friends. I wish you all the luck in the world.