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Feline Fatale: Halle Berry

From award-winning dramatic roles in "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" and "Monster's Ball" to playing a Bond girl and being a mutant on "X-Men," Halle Berry is one of the few actresses who can move seamlessly from serious drama to commercial blockbusters.

And now the versitile actress moves like a feline in her latest film, "Catwoman," which she tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler, is an iconic character that stretched her limits as an actress.

Berry says, "She epitomizes sexiness and strength at the same time. As a woman that seemed like a great role to play and, also, have fun doing, because you get to do all kinds of physical things. I got to stretch my limits, my physical talents, as an actor. It was good fun."

In the film, Berry plays the part of Patience Philips, a timid office worker who gets caught in a fateful turn of events that transforms her into the sleek, mysterious, seductive Catwoman - a woman gifted with strength, agility, and ultra-keen senses, balancing on the thin line of good and bad.

"She gets her voice and that's the basic underlying story of 'Catwoman,'" explains Berry. "When she becomes Catwoman, it's her alter ego. She becomes the woman that she knows she wants to be. And it's hidden inside her somewhere. But as women, sometimes we don't have the courage or strength to really be who we'd like to be. And she gets to be who she really would like to be and sort of live out that fantasy, which is great."

The film's makers say a lot of the action that Berry does in the movie is based on actual cat movement; Berry begun preparing for the physically demanding role long before the cameras started rolling.

She says, " I learned this Brazilian form of martial arts, called Capoeira, which takes a lot of upper body strength and it incorporates gymnastics and dance. And I got into a shape that I didn't think possible, really. No way I could keep up with it because it was hours of work a day."

And according to Berry, who separated from husband Eric Benet in 2003, "Catwoman" was just what the doctor ordered.

" I'm in a good space, which is good," she says.

"Catwoman" opens nationwide July 23, 2004.

Fast Facts About Halle Berry:

  • Born Cleveland, Ohio, on Aug. 14, 1966, as youngest daughter of a black father and white mother.
  • Attended Bedford High School in Bedford, Ohio. Was a cheerleader, editor of the school paper and president of honor society; also elected prom queen (classmates accused her of stuffing the ballot box because the school population was predominantly Caucasian; a coin toss decided the results and Berry won.)
  • Entered the Miss Teen Ohio Pageant after high school and won, representing the state at the Miss Teen All-American Pageant. Later, attempted to add another crown as Miss Ohio in the Miss USA competition but placed as first runner-up.
  • Moved into modeling after finishing in the top five at the Miss World pageant.
  • In 1989, moved to acting when cast as a teenage model in the short-lived sitcom "Living Dolls". Had numerous guest roles in TV series after that.
  • In 1991, delivered harrowing performace playing crack addict in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever".
  • In 1991, played femme fatale and a stripper in "Strictly Business" and "The Last Boy Scout" respectively.
  • In 1992, portrayed career woman who falls for Eddie Murphy in "Boomerang" and a headstrong post-Civil War woman in the titular role of "Queen", a CBS miniseries.
  • In 1994, played sultry secretary in "The Flintstones", winning the part after Sharon Stone rejected it.
  • In 1995, co-starred with Jessica Lange, playing former drug addict struggling to regain her son's custody in "Losing Isaiah".
  • In 1996, played flight attendant in "Executive Decision". In the same year, played spouse who finds herself framed for murder in "The Rich Man's Wife".
  • In 1998, played lead in ABC miniseries "The Wedding". In the same year, played woman raised by activists who gives an older politician (Warren Beatty) a new lease on life in "Bulworth". Also played singer Zola Taylor, one of the three wives of pop singer Frankie Lymon, in the biopic "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?".
  • In 1999, portrayed the singer-actress who became the first black woman nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award in HBO biopic "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge". Netted several awards for the role that both Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston had expressed a desire to play.
  • In 2000, played mutant 'Storm' in Bryan Singer's big-screen version of the Marvel comic "X-Men". Performance overshadowed by involvement in a car crash - she left the accident scene to go to the hospital for treatment, leading to stories in the tabloid media. Pleaded no contest and settled a civil lawsuit out of court.
  • Married singer Eric Benet in 2001, separated two years later.
  • In 2001, was in the spotlight for appearing topless in "Swordfish".
  • Later that same year, delivered a brutally honest and moving performance as a struggling waitress coping with a husband on death row and an overweight child in "Monster's Ball". Won critical plaudits for her work. Made history by becoming the first black woman ever to earn a Best Actress Academy Award for the film.
  • In 2002, played 'Jinx' in the James Bond feature, "Die Another Day" opposite Pierce Brosnan.
  • In 2003, reprised her role as Storm, a part which was expanded somewhat to suit her award-winning status.
  • Later that year, she starred in the horror thriller "Gothika", playing Miranda Gray, a doctor in a mental institute who becomes incarcerated in her own hospital. Film was the first to be sold on Berry's name and its strong box office opening proved her clout in Hollywood.
  • Just completed filming Oprah Winfrey's latest TV production, "Their Eyes Were Watching God", to air next season on ABC.
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