Movies

Halle Berry, Catwoman

(Catwoman: Yariv Milchan)

Halle Berry would like to set a few things straight: ”Catwoman” has nothing to do with the ”Batman” franchise (no Bruce Wayne, no Gotham City) and features a feline femme who bears no relation to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle – or, for that matter, Julie Newmar’s or Eartha Kitt’s. This is an entirely new legend (a shrewd business decision, since Warner Bros. is working on a separate ”Batman” revival). ”We’re not saying this is Catwoman,” Berry explains. ”I’m my own incarnation, not to be compared to the others.” Still, the Oscar winner and veteran comic-book heroine (she’s ”X-Men”’s Storm) had misgivings about going feral. ”I was nervous [about] living up to the women who have played her before. That’s what I struggled with – if I couldn’t bring anything different, then why do it?” So what does she contribute? ”There have been other Catwomen who were real actresses, but [none with] the depth of soul and spirit that Halle has,” says Sharon Stone, who joins the meow mix as the scheming wife of a cosmetics mogul. ”Halle doesn’t do anything without giving her own pathos and meaning. She’s the real deal.”

Directed by mono-monikered French newcomer Pitof, this reported $100 million ”Catwoman” tells the tail – er, tale – of meek graphic designer Patience Philips (Berry), who, after tussling with her boss (”The Matrix Reloaded”’s Lambert Wilson), finds herself endowed with superkitty abilities. ”The concept is to [give] the character powers, but make her as [normal] as possible so we can relate to her,” explains Pitof, who got his first taste of Hollywood in 1997 as visual-effects supervisor on ”Alien Resurrection.” ”She’s not [totally] superhuman. She can jump, she can see at night, she has enhanced hearing, and she’s very fast.” All of which she uses to enthrall her badge-wearing beau (Benjamin Bratt) and lick her enemies, specifically a certain blonde who is no stranger to playing the bad kitty. ”There will be a big fight between the delicious little pussycats,” reveals Stone. And Berry’s stealthy creature doesn’t just claw and pounce: She practices a form of Brazilian martial arts called capoeira, and – hold on to your hair balls – even prances. ”It’s definitely more edgy, more reflective of the times,” promises Berry. ”We just shot a dance scene that is really exciting. She’s in touch with her sexuality, thinking ‘Damn! I look good! I should enjoy this!’ Catwoman is all about self-empowerment.” That, and belly-baring leather suits.

Originally posted February 5 2004 — 12:00 AM EST

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