After Halle Berry’s directorial debut “Bruised” premiered on Netflix as the service’s No. 1 movie in the U.S., the Oscar winner is deepening her ties to the streamer. Netflix announced November 30 that it has signed a multi-picture deal with Berry that will see her star in and produce films, continuing Netflix’s strategy of signing rich deals with major talent to give it a competitive edge in the streaming wars.
“There are few people with a career like Halle Berry. She’s an award-winning actress, producer and as audiences saw this past week, she’s an incredible director. We’re thrilled to be in her corner as she delivers power in front of and behind the camera in ‘Bruised’ and look forward to telling more stories together,” said Scott Stuber, Netflix’s head of global film.
“Bruised” got a limited theatrical release from Netflix November 17, and started streaming November 24. The film stars Berry as a washed-up MMA fighter struggling for redemption as an athlete and a mother in Newark, New Jersey. It was written by Michelle Rosenfarb in her feature debut. It’s the service’s No. 1 movie in the U.S. this week and in the No. 2 spot worldwide; it was watched for 47.7 million hours in its first five days, according to Netflix.
After “Bruised” premiered at TIFF as a work in progress last year, the streamer reportedly paid close to $20 million for the movie. Among the producers was Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk, with whom Berry worked on “John Wick: Chapter 3 –Parabellum.” Blake Lively was originally attached to star; when she backed out Berry approached Iwanyk with a pitch to transform the lead character into a middle-aged Black woman. After trouble finding the right director, Berry offered to helm it herself and continued developing the project, she told Entertainment Weekly.
“With the pandemic I think we pushed ourselves probably 15 years ahead, because people want to watch things at home on their own time. They want to stop it and start it. So I think we have to start reimagining and rethinking how we’re evolving. People have said to me, ‘You made an independent movie. Why would you sell it to Netflix?’ Because I’m assured people will see it, and that’s the goal! That is ultimately the goal,” she told the magazine.
After the sale of “Bruised” to Netflix, the streamer continued laying the groundwork to make Berry’s work a centerpiece of its service. In February she signed on to star in and executive produce “The Mothership,” a sci-fi movie from Oscar-nominated “Bridge of Spies” scribe Matthew Charman, in his directorial debut. The following month news broke that she will star in another Netflix project, the thriller “Our Man From Jersey,” opposite Mark Wahlberg, whose 2020 Netflix action comedy “Spenser Confidential” has a sequel in development.
In just the last year, Netflix has signed deals with “Schitt’s Creek” co-creator Dan Levy, Jennifer Lopez, Noah Baumbach, TikTok star Addison Rae, Netflix Originals fixture Jennifer Garner, Kevin Hart, “Army of the Dead” helmer Zack Snyder, and Steven Spielberg.
Berry’s entree into Netflix, through an acquisition of an independent film, is rarer. “Pieces of a Woman” Oscar nominee Vanessa Kirby signed a pact after Netflix acquired the film at TIFF last year, which came after Kirby rose to prominence for her performance in Netflix’s “The Crown.”
Those come as streamers vie to make major talent important parts of their strategies: Apple TV+ has deals with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, Oprah Winfrey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Ridley Scott; Paramount+ has “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone; and HBO Max has “The Sopranos” creator David Chase and Issa Rae.