Sometimes, Mother Nature creates genetic specimens so perfect that "Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven?" isn't a pick-up line; it's just a valid question. Such is the case with Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry and heartthrob Morris Chestnut in their newest flick, The Call.
The dazzling duo costars in the thriller with former child star Abigail Breslin (who is all grown up and running around in a bra, by the way). The flick's plot revolves around a 911 operator who gets personally involved with a particular caller -- one serious sicko who's into young girls.
We scored a sneak peek at the high-intensity flick, and it fueled a 24-hour adrenaline rush. Afterward, we were graced with the presence of the talented twosome and got to grill them on parenthood, strong women, and 911 calls. See what they had to say. (Or just look at pictures of their epic perfection. Whatevs.)
Cultist: So I'm totally still shaking from the adrenaline. The Call was insanely intense. How did you prep for those roles?
Morris Chestnut: Basically I went on a ride along with a couple of police officers for a shift or two. I got into the mind of a police officer to see things from their perspective. Being out there, patrolling the streets. We just responded to a few calls.
Halle Berry: I went to a 911 center. I'd never been. I got to go and see this world. The center in the movie was actually a replica of one of the centers in Los Angeles, one of the bigger ones. It was just a world that was completely fascinating -- to meet the people and see who they are. They go through extensive training, and 80 percent of the people who apply to go through the program fail. They don't become 911 operators. It takes a certain kind of person who can access all this information and have a sense of calm about them.
Did you take any calls?
Halle: No. They asked me once to take a real call, but I felt like when people call 911, they don't want to get an actress on the phone. I didn't want to do that. I just listened in and I took notes and I recorded things I heard. I probably listened to hundreds of 911 calls that came in and listened to how they were handled.
Halle, your character in the movie says you have to remain emotionally detached from your RP (reporting person). Do you feel like you have to do that as an actor when dealing with intense roles like this?
Halle: I think so. I've learned how to do that... When I was in it, I was in it, but then when it's over, it's like you take off a jacket. It feels good to put it on and go there because I love that, but it also feels good to take it off and leave it when you're done. It's cathartic.
Morris: I did a scene in this movie years ago, and I had to cry. Whatever my source was, I used to get chills. I got chills for about four months afterward when I thought about shooting the scene. So you have to learn how to get away from it.
Your characters in this flick have insanely high-stress jobs. I would imagine being a successful actor is another extremely stressful gig, though in a different way. How do you deal?
Halle: Well, I think my stress is heightened now that I've become a mother. I think I was dealing with it just fine until [my daughter] came along. Now a little innocent person has been thrust in the middle of dealing with a mom who has to deal with celebrity. It's been put upon her in a way that's kind of stressed me out. I'm learning to try to deal with it in a different way and to try to manage it for her sake. It's tough.
Morris: Her level is much more intrusive on her life. It's very easy for me. After I'm done working, I just kind of blend in. I spend time with my family. I don't really get out too much.
Officer Phillips (Morris Chestnut) in the TriStar Pictures thriller The Call.
Photo by Greg Gayne
I don't know, Morris, the women were all hooting and hollering when you came into the theater last night.
Halle: They wanted him to come sit on their laps. Wow, girls! [laughs]
This movie revolves around two really strong female characters. What kind of message do you hope people come away with about female empowerment?
Halle: One thing I hope they come away with is [that] this could really happen. So I hope on some level it heightens people's awareness about what can be and makes us all a bit more diligent about our surroundings. Safety first, especially for our young children. Our young girls, I'm hoping this will resonate with them if they see it, the ones who are old enough to see it, and if not, the parents of young girls.
I hope women leave here and feel really good about who we are. We don't often get to see women in strong roles -- I mean, we do, but we see men in these roles far more. I hope women will go and have a sense of pride in this and realize we are strong, and it's nice to see us represented like that in social media or in film or pop culture.
Morris: I think with the roles that she and Abigail played, they had to deal with life-and-death situations -- at first just being emotional about it, then they realized that cooler heads will prevail. Once they met with the initial shock of what was going on, they realized they needed to put their heads together and make it out of that situation as best they could. And hopefully my daughter, even my wife, if they were in a tough situation, that they would be able to do the same type of thing. And anybody, if anybody gets kidnapped, that's a very high-stress, high-intensity situation. Sometimes we don't really think straight in those types of situations, but the best thing to do is try to be as calm as you can and try to think your way through it.
Having children, and even working with Abigail, who's so young -- was it difficult to face the issues the movie deals with?
Halle: It's eye-opening. I think it's good when we can take a movie and shed some light in a dark place. As disturbing as it might be to watch, I think it's an important message to get people to really heighten their awareness of their surroundings. We don't need to live in fear, but I think there's a healthy way to live with a knowing of what's out there in the world. We don't want to live in oblivion and not teach our young girls to be responsible and protect themselves.
Morris, your character is very supportive of Halle's. How can a man best support a strong woman?
Halle: [laughs, turns toward Morris] Good question! Relationship guru, I want an answer!
Morris: That's actually a good question -- how can men be supportive of a strong woman? I can really only speak for myself in that situation. To me, I relate back to my wife. I like to think of my wife as the backbone of our family. In our family, although I make a lot of decisions, she's the emotional support, she's the physical support -- she's always there. I don't overrule her when it comes to our kids or anything like that because she needs to remain an authority figure in that household, especially because I'm gone all the time. So I don't really think it's a problem to empower a woman. I love to empower her in that type of situation. I think all men should feel that. I know some men are intimidated by that, but I don't feel that at all.
There were some scenes where the fear was seriously palpable. How do you conjure up fear like that?
Halle: You know, I really can't tell you how. It's what we do; it's being in the moment. That actor, Michael Ekland, was pretty amazing. When you're working with really good people, it helps you go to another level of realism. He was bringing it 100 percent every single time. The place was spooky; he was spooky. Putting my character in that situation, that would be the most terrifying thing ever -- realizing you were maybe about to face your death in that way. I think that would pretty much scare the shit out of anybody. Again, she's an average woman doing an extraordinary thing. She's not a cop, she's not trained to do any of this -- she's an average woman who finds herself in that situation.
Any favorite scenes or anything that surprised you when you saw the movie's final cut?
Halle: One of the things I really like is when Morris first comes over and he says, "Anybody call for some strippers?" He just made that up on the day; it wasn't written. And when he said it, it was just the most funny and charming thing, and we just all fell out, and I really like that kind of playfulness. The movie has some moments of a little lightness before it gets into the whooooo [seriousness]. I was just surprised by the pace of it. I knew what was going to happen in the movie, but I didn't see what Morris and Abigail were doing because I was in the call center doing what I was doing.
Miami. Any big plans? Halle, I heard you were on Despierta America.
Halle: That was fun. When I was with him doing Cloud Atlas stuff, Tom Hanks said, if you get to go to that show, you should really go -- you'll really like it. It was wild; it was fun [laughs].
Morris: We went out to dinner last night. Other than that, we've just been working -- it's just time for work. Maybe when I come for play, I'll have something else.
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It's a pretty great city. You've gotta explore it.
Halle: It is.