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July 2004
Catwoman: An Interview with Benjamin Bratt

By Wilson Morales

Catwoman: An Interview with Benjamin Bratt

Benjamin Bratt just can't let a good role pass him by, especially if it's a familiar. For many years, he played a cop on the TV's long running series, Law and Order, and when he left the show, he wanted to pursue a film career. His crowning achievement has been the film, Pinero, where he played the title character. But for every one of those films, he's played the cop's role at least two or three times. In his latest role, Bratt once again will don the cop's role as he plays against Oscar Winner Halle Berry in Catwoman. Very recently, Bratt spoke to blackfilm.com about his character and his future projects.

Do you ever go talk to kids like your character does?

Benjamin Bratt: My character, no, but I certainly have in my personal life. I have three sisters that actually work in the San Francisco Unified School District. I've visited their classes and talked to their kids.

What kind of questions do you get?

BB: Well they're fifth graders mostly, so, you know, what's it like to carry a gun and things like that. What's it like to kiss a girl? My youngest sister is actually a teacher's aide at a high school in San Francisco, so the questions are a little bit more to the point let's say.

Was there a conscious effort, on your part to be really sexy as this cop, or was that the director?

BB: The funny thing, in hindsight, is that I was giving what I was getting. And when you're working opposite Halle Berry, you're going to get a lot. So you have to give a lot. That said, what I've found striking in the past few days is that people are aware of a good chemistry that exists between us on screen. If that's so, it's due to the fact that she and I have a real liking for each other in real life and a real mutual respect. That goes a long way I think, when you're working in an intimate scenario with someone.

Tom Lone is not the traditional cop roleŠ

BB: You've got a point there. One thing that we were very conscientious about was that upon reading the script initially, Tom Lone, as a detective, was a fairly straightforward one dimensional character. That was something, before deciding to do it, the producers, the directors, and Halle and I decided he needed improvement. So, we worked really hard to make him someone more formidable, not only physically, but emotionally. So when Patience Phillips [Halle Berry] becomes imbued with these powers, she can potentially get together with someone who won't be a pushover. No one wants to be with a pushover after all. That's kind of boring. So, while she could probably whoop his ass in a second, he's going to get his licks in too.

Tell us about the scene on the basketball court. Do either of you have any game?

BB: You know what, I showed up on the set for the first rehearsal of the basketball sequence thinking I had some game, cause I grew up in the city, San Francisco. The stunt coordinator promptly pulled me aside and said, we need to work on your dribbling. Apparently I had no game, no shot whatsoever. But again, that scene is really a metaphor for foreplay. The beginning stages of the warming process between these two characters. So it's effective in that sense more than anything else. But if you asked me if I could beat Halle in real life, at the hoop game, I would say hands down.

Where there any scenes where you had to act opposite a green screen, CGI version of Halle?

BB: No, it was always opposite Halle. There certainly were effects, the Ferris wheel sequence especially. Which was a lot more complicated, there were no actors involved. Simply a cut away, reaction shot of Lone, for example. And I'm looking except for the top of a warehouse. That happens often. The other thing is that Halle is one of the most dedicated, focused actors I've ever worked with. She's arguably one of the biggest superstars in the world. She's got a lot of admiration, she's an Oscar winner, she's got great skill. If she wanted to, she could behave really badly and get away with it. But, I have to give her full credit. Even the most ridiculous or seemingly insignificant off-camera moment, she would be there. She would come out of her trailer to service whatever actor she was working with. I just gained a much greater respect for her. I think her work ethic really shows in the result of the film.

What appealed to you about this role?

BB: To be really honest, there wasn't much about the role that appealed to me in the beginning. It was horrifyingly familiar territory for me. I've made a career over the last seventeen years of mostly playing men in uniform, especially cops. The one thing for an actor that is death, is if you're bored. The boredom will show in your work. There was an inherent challenge in trying to keep it fresh. The real draw for me was the opportunity, at long last, to work with Halle. We had come close to working together on two other films, prior to this one that unfortunately had fallen apart for various reasons. I figured three was a charm, even though it was familiar territory again. I felt we could do something fun with it. In hindsight, I'm glad I did it because I saw it a couple of nights ago. I had no idea.

Take us through the thoughts that went through your head the first time she showed up on set in the cat suit?

BB: I probably had the same thoughts that every red blooded male had that day. What's funny is that for the first two months of filming I was playing opposite her, as she was in her character of Patience Phillips, demure, kind of vulnerable, a little bit shy. You can't help it, you're spending most of your time with another actor as their character. You begin to believe they have those qualities as well. Halle actually does, in spite of all the success and fame she's acquired. There's a genuine vulnerability and shyness to certain aspects of her. But when she showed up that first day in that leather outfit, there was indeed a collective gasp on set. This is no joke, no lie whatsoever, there were more men on set, who were "part of the crew" than I've ever seen before. The electrician team and the grip team seemed to double. There were twice as many caterers. That seemed to happen every time she came on set as Catwoman. She cuts a pretty striking figure in that outfit. There not many women alive that can pull it off the way she does.

Can you talk about your role in Ghost Soldiers and what the story is about?

BB: That was a film I made two years ago. Someone made a comment yesterday how I dropped out for a while. I actually didn't. Since Pinero, we released that about two and a half years ago, I made five films. The first of which was Abandon, which already came out. Then Ghost Soldiers, the working title was The Great Raid. It's a Miramax film. It's a big budget world war two historical epic. It's about the Pacific Theatre. It's about the real life account of how 120 US army rangers, led Lt. Col. Henry Mussey, the character I play, goes into a POW camp in the Philippines that's being run by Japanese troops and rescues 500 Americans. To date, apparently it's the most successful US military raid. It's finished or it's in the final stages. Why it didn't come out yet? I'm sure there are a number of different reasons. I'm guessing one of them might be the world political climate. It isn't necessarily ready for a film that depicts American military heroism. I do believe we're slated for a 2005 release, for this coming February.

What can you tell us about Che Gueverra?

BB: I think the script is in development. Originally that project was in the hands of Terrence Malick and I was very excited about working with him. Unfortunately it didn't work out with him, he went to another project. He was the co-author of that particular Che project, along with Benicio Del Toro. For whatever reason, the project has moved to the hands of Steven Soderbergh. Who was initially, I think, being asked about it a few years back. So, we'll start working on that sometime next summer.

What character do you play in Che?

BB: As of my last meeting with them, my role would be that of Ente, the right hand man, lieutenant to Che. One of the last survivors of the massacre that occurred in Bolivia, the film basically covers the final days of Che. By the way, Ghost Soldiers is called The Great Raid again.

How is fatherhood? Are you preparing for the terrible twos?

BB: Yes, they're coming on. There's an indication that they're going to be here in full force, but you know what? All kidding aside, I find myself enjoying a deeper love than I ever imagined was possible in the form of my daughter and certainly in the union with my wife. It makes everything else, including work, which is one of the things I'm most passionate about, pale by comparison. That being said, there is the practical aspect of work and making a living, so by necessity, I'm oftentimes called away from my family. Fortunately, I was able to have them for most of the five and a half months while we were shooting this up in Vancouver, but even over a three-day weekend like this one, it's rather hard for me to be away from them. We're very close.

Are you taking time off to stay with them?

BB: Yeah. I would say that for most of her 19 months, I've been gainfully unemployed as I like to put it and primarily concentrating on parenting and being a good husband.

When she starts dating, what kind of dad will you be? The one with the baseball bat?

BB: I won't need the baseball bat. It will all be in the glare. The furrowed brow. I'm telling you right now, she's not dating until she's at least 30.

Do you imagine the woman you want her to be?

BB: I have and I've already gotten a very good indication from her the kind of woman that she's going to be. What I found striking was that from almost day one, it was very clear to me that there was a personality imprint of who she was meant to be, very clear and evident to everyone. It turns out, not all kids are this way. I don't think this is a particular bias from this particular father about this particular girl. Everyone who meets her says that she seems to be such a happy and loving baby. And already at a year and a half, their personalities are there. They're developing. And she's got a killer sense of humor. She's a funny little girl. And I dare say one of the most beautiful kids in the world.

Would you like to have more?

BB: Yeah, I come from a large family so you can count on the fact that I'm going to have more kids.

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