You know who’s preternaturally beautiful, even as she creeps up on age 50? Halle Berry. You know who has an Academy Award and an Emmy for two above-average portrayals of complicated women? Halle Berry. But you know who I wouldn’t let near an Angela Davis biopic, as anything other than an executive producer? Halle Berry.
While I’m sure she’d look regal in a leaping fro wig, and I know she’d put on a tough face and delivery long, righteously indignant political monologues with all the passion and fire she could muster, I’ve seen Halle Berry at the height of her passion and fire. And I know that her best would fall pretty far short of convincingly channeling Angela Davis.
Even so, as a recent Shadow and Act article has pointed out, Berry has been expressing interest in portraying the academic, revolutionary, socialist/communist icon for about two years now. She first went public with the notion in a January 2011 issue of Jet:
I’ll probably never get to play it in my life and I am going to be sad until the day I die, but I really want to play Angela Davis-badly. So badly. I just think she’s fascinating and I think I would love to tell a story from her perspective about that time in our history and what it was all about with the black panthers.
She mentioned it again in the latest issue of InStyle:
Her story is so fascinating. I would love to bring it to the screen. I would pick her brain to have a better understanding of her affiliation with the Black Panthers and that period from the 1960s.” The movie Berry hopes to make would also explore Davis’ communist beliefs – she also ran as the U.S. vice presidential candidate for the Communist Party USA.
Let’s be real here. If there’s any chance that a dramatization of Davis’ life will ever make it to the silver screen, it will only do so with someone of Berry’s Hollywood caliber attached to it. Berry produced the only Dorothy Dandridge biopic (for HBO) and managed to get the incredible Lackawanna Blues made (also for HBO). She also served as a producer on a third biopic in 2010, Frankie & Alice, in which she played the title role of Frankie Murdoch, a multiple personality disorder sufferer with racial identity issues. It’s possible that none of these would see the flicks would’ve seen the light of day without Berry’s involvement. It’s also true that the best of the three films she’s produced is the one in which she didn’t act.
So while I’d be happy to see an Angela Davis biopic — a raw and honest one — I’d be less excited if it starred Halle. Ms. Berry is not without her talents. She does fragile well. She plays a decent crack addict. She seems to excel at love scenes. But tenacious, academic, formidable? These are not qualities that are as easy for her to pull off.
As we know, this is likely a one-shot deal. If an Angela Davis film is made, there’ll only be one. Which means one chance to get it right. If Halle Berry really wants to get it right, she’ll stay behind the camera and get someone like Sophie Okenedo, Nicole Ari Parker, Sanaa Lathan, Jurnee Smollet (if we’re going young), or an unknown to stand in front of it.
But that’s just one writer’s opinion. What do you guys think?