Despite being one of the most infamous comic book movies of all time, Halle Berry wants another crack at Catwoman. Except this time, she also wants to sit in the director’s chair.
Coming off her directorial debut, the recent Netflix film Bruised, Berry hinted at her ambitions to Vanity Fair during a career retrospective. From modeling in Chicago to being the first (and still only) Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress, Berry’s career has had a fair number of high highs and ho-hum lows. There are critical favorites like Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and Monster’s Ball, and then there is a movie where the fallout would make many want to forget the whole thing. But in the interview, Berry confronts Catwoman, her ill-fated 2004 DC Comics movie.
“I would definitely direct the next Catwoman,” she says. “I think I would redeem myself. As a filmmaker now, I would totally change the story. I would change the characters. I would have Catwoman saving the world from some catastrophe, like male comic book characters get to do.”
As noted in Polygon’s Bruised review, Berry’s original Catwoman, directed by Pitof, “let her kick ass, but asked barely anything of her dramatically.” The DC comic book movie cast Berry as mild-mannered Patience Phillips, who transforms into the mysterious and alluring Catwoman. Sitting with a nine percent on Rotten Tomatoes, everyone seemed to agree the movie had more than its fair share of problems.
Initially envisioned as a continuation of Tim Burton’s Batman movies, the first idea for a Catwoman movie saw Michelle Pfeiffer’s character temporarily leaving Gotham for a desert resort known as Oasisburg. Meant to be an adult portrayal, it stood in stark contrast to what Warner Bros. wanted out of DC Comics at the time, which was more family-friendly fare like 1995’s Batman Forever.
Pfeiffer eventually bailed from the standalone, prompting WB to reportedly offer the role to Ashley Judd, who also eventually passed. The project languished in so-called Development Hell until Berry came aboard, moving on from a failed attempt to spin off her character Jinx in the James Bond movie Die Another Day.
WB hired Pitof, a French visual effects supervisor with one movie under his belt at the time, to helm the Berry vehicle. He certainly had a vision, wanting to focus heavily on the “cat” part of Catwoman. Choreographer Anne Fletcher was brought onto the film to help Berry act, and even think, like a cat.
“Pitof wanted Catwoman’s physicality to be as real as possible,” Fletcher said in a 2003 interview. “He said that she’s a woman first and a cat second, but he wanted to see how cat-like a human body could become.” For research, Berry watched hours of cat footage and spent time with the movie’s animal handler.
How cat-like a human body can become is not something earnestly explored in Pitof’s Catwoman. What is explored, rather, is how confusing a single scene of Halle Berry and Benjamin Bratt playing basketball can become. The shots don’t feel like a ’90s music video so much as the result of someone explaining the concept of a ’90s music video to a friend in a loud restaurant, and Pitof, having overheard the conversation, going off and trying to remember the details.
Beyond direction trying way too hard, the movie didn’t leave Berry much to work with. As noted in a 2016 academic paper by Caroline Heldman, Laura Lazarus Frankel, and Jennifer Holmes on female protagonists, the movie presents Catwoman’s “agency, power, and freedom as derivative of her hypersexualization,” leaving Berry’s character “without core identity.” That isn’t too far off from what costume designer Angus Strathie, as detailed in the film’s press notes published during release, envisioned. “We wanted a very reality-based wardrobe to show the progression from demure, repressed Patience to the sensual awakening of a sexy warrior goddess,” he said.
Catwoman was a critical and commercial flop, eventually winning Berry the Razzie for Worst Actress of the Year. Commenting on the important of being a “good loser” in Vanity Fair, she looks back with pride on her decision to attend the event. “If I can show up to collect an Oscar when you’re honoring me, I can certainly show up to collect a Razzie when you say, good try, but do better,” she says. After the show, she set her Razzie on fire.
It’s highly unlikely that Berry would continue down Pitof’s road. Rather, her more recent roles, like in Bruised and John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum offer better clues. In the Vanity Fair career breakdown, Berry praises Parabellum co-star Keanu Reeves for doing his own stunts alongside her, showing that “age is just a number.” Berry seems more invigorated by the “gritty” and physicals worlds seen in John Wick and Bruised, so it stands to reason that her Catwoman would be something similar.
While the exhaustive process of directing herself doesn’t seem to be something Berry is eager to repeat, her work with Spike Lee early in both of their careers taught her to “never say never.” Yes, Zoë Kravitz is set to play Catwoman/Selina Kyle in the upcoming DC reboot The Batman, but ... if Zack Snyder can get a second shot at Justice League, why not give Halle Berry another go at Catwoman?