City Park, the Huey P. Long Bridge, Slidell and the Nine Mile Point neighborhood on the West Bank serve as backdrops for Halle Berry’s fast and furious “Kidnap,” opening Friday in New Orleans.
No stranger to action, Berry controlled the weather as superhero Storm in four “X-Men” movies. She played the stealthy title character in “Catwoman.” And she co-starred as secret agent Jinx Johnson alongside Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in “Die Another Day.”
But Berry has never been as wrapped in action as she is in “Kidnap.” The actress spends most of the movie pedal to the metal, chasing the kidnappers who’ve abducted her character’s young son. Playing single mom Karla Dyson, Berry and her motherly instincts leap into super-drive. The movie opens nationwide Friday.
Berry talked about “Kidnap” in June at the Orpheum Theater, just before the film’s Essence Festival-linked U.S. premiere. Essence entertainment director Cori Murray interviewed the actress, who won an Oscar for her performance in 2001’s LaPlace-filmed “Monster’s Ball.”
“I’m so tired of seeing men save the day,” Berry said. “I really wanted to highlight the heart of a woman, of that mama bear who’ll stop at nothing.”
Sage Correa co-stars as Dyson’s kidnapped child, 6-year-old Frankie.
“This son is the center of her universe, as my children are,” Berry said. “Right before her eyes, the unthinkable happens. She’s an ordinary woman. No special skills, other than the heart of a lion who loves her child. She’s just got to keep going and going and going.”
Because actresses are only human, the story’s emotional intensity at times overwhelmed Berry. The abduction scene hit her the hardest.
“The helplessness you feel, the terror,” Berry said. “Those were hard moments. I kept crying. The director said, ‘You’re not supposed to be crying here! Get it together!’ ”
Berry accepted her intense role in “Kidnap” because it challenged her.
Can't see the video below? Click here.
“I always want to try something new, stretch myself,” she said. “Sometimes when you do that, you fail big time, but that’s a part of it. You learn so much in your failures. It’s not always just about winning.”
Locations for the nonstop “Kidnap” include City Park’s Stanley Ray Playground, near Morning Call. The Huey P. Long Bridge hosts one of many chase sequences. State officials closed the bridge for 14 hours in November 2014 to accommodate filming. The production used more than 60 vehicles and half a dozen cameras during the 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. shoot on the bridge, producer Eric Howsam told The Advocate in 2014.
“I do a lot of my own stunts,” Berry said of her driving and fight scenes. She promised the full house in the Orpheum that the film’s action is fierce.
“Lorenzo di Bonaventura from the ‘Transformer’ movies is one of our producers,” she said. “Nobody does action better than Lorenzo. Men, you won’t be disappointed, because the action is en pointe.”
Berry also expressed her relief that “Kidnap” is finally being released. Shot in the fall of 2014, the project entered movie limbo following Relativity Media’s 2015 bankruptcy. The Beverly Hills-based distribution company Aviron Pictures has since acquired the film.
“Our movie got stuck in movie hell,” Berry lamented. “Thank God that David Dinerstein and Aviron Pictures came along and rescued us. I thought our movie would sit on a bank shelf, never to be seen by the world. We all worked so hard on this film.”
All of which made the “Kidnap” premiere in New Orleans sweeter.
“Honestly, to premiere it in this town that I have a love affair with, where we shot this movie, this means so very much to me now,” Berry said.
During “Kidnap” production in New Orleans, Berry added, “I gained about 15 pounds. All the beignets and the gumbo and crawfish did me dirty! But I loved being here, and I love the people. I also shot ‘Monster’s Ball’ here. That movie changed my life.”
Berry, the only African-American woman to win an Academy Award for best actress in a leading role, said she’s saddened that an actress of color has not won an Oscar for best actress since she won the prize in 2002.
At this point in her own career, Berry said, “I tell every woman of color I meet, ‘Don’t focus on the award, focus on the work.’ … The fact that we get to work in the industry and make livings and raise our children and do what we love, tell stories that we’re passionate about, stories that uplift us as people and as women, is far more important.”
Ultimately, the actress said, greater diversity in the film industry requires more people of color working as writers, directors and producers.
“Not just actors or singers. We have to produce and own our own material. And then we’ll start to see change. But I don’t think we will see it in a major way until we start doing it for ourselves.”