She may have been quaking in her Jimmy Choo stilettos, but when Halle Berry
made history as the first African-American to win a Best Actress Oscar last March, her feet were firmly planted on the ground. "This moment," she said through her sobs, "is so much bigger than me." It had taken 74 years for the wall to come down, and even as Berry, 36, shared the victory for her provocative role as a weary waitress in Monster's Ball
with her showbiz sisters, she also prepared to "keep marching to my own drum," she says.
To that end, in November Berry moved seamlessly from serious actress to sexy temptress in the 007 movie Die Another Day
. As slinky superspy Jinx, Berry, who took knife training for the role, ushered in a brand-new type of Bond babe. Prominently sharing space with James Bond himself (Pierce Brosnan) on the movie's posters and promos, she helped make the film's opening grosses the highest in franchise history. And there is now talk of a movie spinoff for Jinx. "Halle has traveled a long road and worked very hard," says Brosnan. "She has a good sense of her sensuality as a woman and she's got a real heart. Plus, she's a very, very good actress."
But Berry's banner year has not been without bumps. She acknowledged to Essence that she has sought counseling to help mend her marriage of two years to R&B singer Eric Benét, 36. Still, family remains paramount in her life, especially her relationship with Benét's daughter India, 10, whom she adopted. "There's such a mom in there," says Berry's acting coach Ivana Chubbuck. Meanwhile, Oscar casts its magic. Berry is in such demand that she has five films in development. "Before, when a movie was finishing, I'd call my manager and say, 'Oh my God, we've got to get a job,' " she says. "Now I have two years of work."