By EW Staff
August 14, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Gothika: Attila Dory
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Halle Berry sums up ”Gothika” in one word: ?scary.? Not because the $40 million picture is a thriller set in a psychiatric ward. And not because she broke her arm during a stunt scene. No, ”Gothika” has her stomach in knots because it’s her first lead role — as in carries-the-whole-damn-film lead role. ?Totally scary,? she laughs. ?But great — it’s what I’ve been hoping for. It was a great tour de force role for a woman.?

Berry is Dr. Miranda Grey, a psychiatrist who wakes up a patient in her own hospital, accused of murdering her husband. Robert Downey Jr. plays a colleague; Penélope Cruz is a fellow inmate. ?[In Miranda’s] journey to either prove her innocence or accept her guilt, everybody becomes suspect,? says Berry. ?It’s like a whodunit. Mathieu [Kassovitz] took what could have been a horror movie into something deeper, more suspenseful.?

And in his first foray into Hollywood, no less. Before ”Gothika,” Kassovitz had worked solely in his native France. ?The fact that Mathieu had never done an American movie was refreshing,? says Berry. ?He wasn’t jaded at all. He still had that European edge.?

Which translated into a fertile on-set relationship. Says Kassovitz: ?When you see Halle Berry acting, she enjoys it like a kid, she has fun. And she’s doing it to the fullest. Every time [there was a problem], she was kicking my ass, saying, it’s not good enough, I really want the movie to be good.?

The Killer Moment Scene details are top secret, but Berry offers a challenge: ”See if you can tell when I’m hiding a cast and when I’m acting with both my arms.”

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