Halle Berry in CBS' 'Extant'
Halle Berry in CBS’ ‘Extant’

I was reading this piece (“Halle Berry’s LA Riots drama ‘Kings’ sold into Europe”) on Screen Daily’s website a few minutes before I typed up this post, in which the reporter states that the film is apparently a *hot* buy at the Cannes Film Market (Marche du Film) where it’s being shopped to international distributors. And the first thing that came to me was whether Halle Berry is still considered an “A-list” actress – at least in Hollywood terms. I don’t like those labels, but they are used commonly in the industry to easily/reductively represent talent hierarchy.

And then I thought further, wondering whether she was ever considered an “A-List” actress. I believe the answer to the first question, using industry criteria, is probably no, she isn’t considered “A-List” any longer, but, in the past, especially post-“Monster’s Ball,” for which she made history becoming the first black woman (and still the only black woman) to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, she was once considered an “A-lister.”

Using salary as one gauge of “A-List” status, Berry was paid a reported $600,000 for “Monster’s Ball” (2001), and saw her pay-per-project increase quite dramatically after that, starting with “Die Another Day” (2002), $4,000,000; Gothika (2003), $6,000,000; and “Catwoman” (2004), $14,000,000, which my research tells me, represented Berry at her professional peak, joining the then small club of actors and actresses commanding 8-figure salaries for movies they headlined. In fact, for actresses specifically, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that, at the time (12+ years ago), the club of women earning 8-figure salaries in Hollywood, was even smaller.

Another gauge to consider is that the budgets of the films she’s starred in since then (emphasizing films she headlined; so movies like “X-Men” don’t count) – the budgets have gotten significantly smaller since the critical and commercial flop that was the $100 million budgeted “Catwoman.” So it only makes sense then that her salary in each successive case, would be smaller.

Films like “Things We Lost in the Fire,” “Frankie & Alice,” and “Dark Tide,” all of which followed “Catwoman,” were all independently financed and released, with budgets that were sub-$15 million; some in the single digit millions. The last film which she headlined – 2013’s “The Call,” which was a studio picture – cost just $13 million to make. Although it was a hit (relative to its budget), grossing over $57 million. Certainly not what would be called blockbuster numbers, but for a $13 million film (not including P&A costs), a $57 million gross is decent. The film, by all accounts, should’ve been profitable for the studio (Sony/TriStar).

And that’s the last film Berry has led. She did appear in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” a year later (2014); but, again, it wasn’t a Halle Berry movie.

But the point here is that, studios and film financiers overall have demonstrated much less confidence in her abilities to sell movies – at least, movies with her name as the marquee.

After what appeared to be a glass ceiling that she smashed through, one would expect her to continue to soar, and the work she did (including salary, budgets and roles) to benefit and reflect that advancement. However, it seems the opposite happened.

Since then, she’s done 2 seasons of the CBS series “Extant,” which was unfortunately a ratings (critical and commercial) disappointment for the network, and was canceled after the second season.

But, to get to the point of all of this (which is not to bash Halle Berry in any way at all), going back to the Screen Daily article I mentioned at the start of this post, the suggestion here is that, while she may not be the on-screen draw she once was years ago in the USA specifically, she’s still in demand overseas.

As the Screen Daily piece states, the project Berry is currently attached to star in – Turkish-French writer/director Deniz Ergüven’s English-language feature film debut, and also only her second feature, which will tell a story set during the 1992 Los Angeles riots – has been drawing international buyers since the project’s kick-off presentation at the Cannes Film Market last week, adding that it has sold to the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey and several other countries.

As Charles Gillibert, who is repping the film at Cannes, told Screen Daily, “All deals have been done at the asking price;” meaning, no negotiations as is customary; the distributors wanted the film enough that they were willing to pay the asking price for it.

“The project has really caught the attention of top distributors and promises to be one of the star projects of next year,” added Vincent Maraval of sales company Insiders, also repping the film.

One could argue that the subject matter is maybe also fueling interest in the project, but, really, this early in the process, when it’s all about the packaging (director and actors attached), when a single frame hasn’t even been filmed, and it’s all still very much an *unknown* entity, the names attached carry the bulk of the weight. And the filmmaker, with just one feature on her resume (although a feature that received critical attention), isn’t exactly widely-known at this stage of her career. So one has to then postulate that Berry’s name (the only actor attached at this point) is a major part of the appeal and the attraction to these international buyers.

So the conclusion here then is that, Halle Berry’s name still carries some weight overseas, even if her “A-list” status here in the USA may have been seemingly revoked by studios and audiences in general. And a reason why this is significant and worth mentioning here is that, as many of you know, the international marketplace has become even more important when it comes to greenlighting films. Studios, producers, financiers, etc are factoring in potential box office overseas very early in the production process. And of course, there’s that very American idea that “black films” or “black stories” don’t sell well overseas.

But maybe I’m entirely wrong about everything I’ve said here, and there’s evidence to support otherwise.

As of today, she’s attached to star in a couple of projects that are being shopped at Cannes currently (the other is a drama titled “Silence,” which Michael Douglas is also on board for), and, from existing reports, both are doing steady business – but for international distributors. Neither has landed a USA distributor as of today, which, maybe speaks to the argument that her talents are more appreciated in the overseas markets than they are here in the USA.

Also on Berry’s slate is the thriller “Kidnapped,” which is currently in post-production, and is set for release later this year; as well as “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (a sequel to the 2015 film “Kingsman: The Secret Service”) which is currently filming. She stars in”Kidnapped,” while playing a supporting role in “Kingsman.”