06/24/2002 at 01:00 AM EDT
Don't invite Halle Berry and Angela Bassett to the same dinner party. Bassett, 43, the Yale-trained actress who gained an Oscar nomination for her 1993 portrayal of Tina Turner in the movie bio "What's Love Got to Do with It," turned down a lead role in last year's "Monster's Ball," the film that won a Best Actress Oscar for Halle Berry, 35. (The honor made Berry the first African-American woman to receive that prize.) Bassett's reason for declining the part, she tells Newsweek, is that she believed the affair conducted by the character in the movie was demeaning and stereotypical. (Bassett was among other actresses, including Vanessa Williams, who reportedly passed on "Monster's Ball" before the role went to Berry.) "It's about character, darling," she told the publication. "I wasn't going to be a prostitute on film. I couldn't do that because it's such a stereotype about black women and sexuality." Bassett insists that she is not criticizing Berry so much as she is criticizing the Hollywood system for continuing to typecast black women in demeaning roles. "It's about putting something out there you can be proud of 10 years later," she said. "I mean, Meryl Streep won Oscars without all that." Bassett also admitted to Newsweek that since "What's Love Got to Do with It," her career has not exactly gone the way she would have hoped.