Frankie and AliceAn Interview with Halle Berry and director Geoffrey Sax
By Wilson Morales
November 18, 2010
Hosted by publicist Peggy Siegal at Cinema 2 in New York City, Berry, wearing a Pamella Roland dress with Christian Loubuotin sandals, was in attendance along with the film’s director Geoffrey Sax, and her producer and manager Vince Cirrincione.
Celebrity guests included former NFL and NY Giants player Harry Carson, ‘Blue Valentine’ director Derek Cianfrance, the legendary actress Ruby Dee, fashion designer Rachel Roy, actor Olivier Martinez, author Walter Mosley, ‘For Colored Girls’ Anika Noni Rose, actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson, singer Maxwell, fashion personality and model Roshumba, and former co-anchor of Dateline NBC Stone Phillips.
Coming out Dec. 10 in Los Angeles, and with a nationwide release planned for February 2011, Berry plays a young multiracial American woman with dissociative identity disorder who struggles to retain her true self and not give in to her racist alter-personality.
Co-starring in the film are Stellan Skarsgård, Phylicia Rashad, Chandra Wilson, and Matt Frewer.
At the afterparty held at Rouge Tomate, Blackfilm.com spoke with Berry and Sax about getting this film off the ground after delays and delays.
What piqued your interest to do this project?
Halle Berry: The minute I heard about this woman’s story, I was intrigued by it, and I was determined to get it to the screen. I just wouldn’t quit.
How did you get involved with this film?
Geoffrey Sax: Halle had seen something I did for the BBC television called ‘Tipping the Velvet,’ which was a lesbian Victorian musical drama and featured a woman who went through a tough experience. There was something she saw in it that made her think I was right for this.
What inspired you to keep moving ahead with this project after 12 years?
HB: Once I get my mindset on something, I’m pretty relentless. It’s hard for me to get unstuck once I’m stuck. I just believed in the story. I believed in the triumph of this woman and I thought in some ways, it can help shed some light on the stigma people feel they have with this condition and hope people can have compassion for them.
How long did it take for this film to get off the ground?
GS: It didn’t take that long. The biggest holdup, to be truthful, was that we started out doing early prep and working on the script, and then my agent called me and said that Halle’s pregnant. Cut to a year later, things happen very suddenly. She had a window, and this was in August 2008, she said, “I’d like to make it.” I said, “When?,” and she said, “Now, but I have to be done by Christmas.” Then it became a scramble. In other words, it went really fast.
How much research did you do for the film? Did you speak to folks who are schizophrenic?
HB: Well, she’s not schizophrenic, she has multiple personalities. I read lots of books, and saw lots of tape. I talked to many doctors in the field. I did my homework.
How was working with Halle?
GS: It was quite easy because we worked on the final draft of the script together. We both had the same motives in mind for what we wanted to do. Then we gradually started researching material, looking at tapes of people with the disorder and adjusting the script. By the time we got to the set to shoot, we were ultra prepared. The actual shooting process was just realizing the work we had done to get to this point.
As one of the producers on the film, can you talk about some of the casting, including Stellan Skarsgård and Phylicia Rashad?
HB: Well, Stellan’s role was really important because the doctor is pivotal in telling the whole story. He was the one that believed that she actually had a disorder. Back in that time, they thought that many of these people were just drug addicts, schizophrenics or wayward people that were making this up. The fact that she was black also spoke to the racism at the time. Many of them were looked down upon, especially black people who claimed to have this problem. Because he believed in her problems, he took her under his wing. That role was really important.
With Phylicia, I had to have a mother that was just earth mother; someone that could walk in the room and you could believe that they love their child and would take a bullet. Most mothers would, but you have to feel it from her the minute she comes onscreen, and I thought she was perfect.
Since the film is based on a true story, did you ever meet the person that Halle is portraying?
GS: No, I didn’t meet her. Halle met her, and in fact saw her again recently and I gather she’s very excited by the film. She wants to keep a low profile, understandably, because a lot of people who know her don’t know what happened to her. I saw people in hospitals with the disorder and no one unfortunately ever manifested themselves while I was there; but during my prep for the film, I spent some time in mental hospitals just soaking in the atmosphere. I didn’t want to get it wrong with the film.