How Halle Berry’s Nude Scene in ‘Swordfish’ Changed History

Halle Berry in a black hat and a black outfit in front of a wall rose.

By Hugh Scott |

Halle Berry in a black hat and a black outfit in front of a wall rose.

(Getty Images)

Halle Berry rose to fame on her acting chops and her beauty. In her early work, she stayed away from doing nude scenes. That changed in 2001 when she appeared topless in not one, but two films: Swordfish and Monster’s Ball. Without the first, she never would have starred in the second — a role that would actually change history.

Halle Berry’s filmography would’ve been massively different

Berry told the New York Post when Monster’s Ball was released that without Swordfish, she never would have been able to pull off her steamy sex scene with Billy Bob Thornton in Monster’s Ball. The actor told the paper, “If I hadn’t done that and been over it, when I got to the love scene in the Monster’s Ball script, I would have stopped reading and said, ‘Not for me.’”

Berry’s scene in Swordfish was brief, at just under three seconds. However, it was what sold the movie and ensured it would earn a profit. Without that scene and the hype that surrounded it, the film likely would have bombed after receiving mostly negative reviews. Even the film’s producer, Joel Silver, said it was “good for box office.”

While honest, solid numbers for what Berry was paid for Swordfish are hard to nail down, it’s a safe bet that she made a healthy chunk of change for her revealing moment. Director Dominic Sena said in an interview at the time that Halle Berry was paid $500,000 for the scene, as “$250,000 per breast” was his off the cuff remark. Berry denied the amount and said Sena was joking. Whatever her paycheck said, there were certainly more zeroes on it than the one she earned for her next film: the small budget indie, Monster’s Ball. The paycheck may have been smaller, but the accolades were much, much bigger.

The actress earned critical praise for the role

After doing the topless scene in Swordfish, Berry was more comfortable with the idea of being nude on screen. Luckily, Berry kept reading the Monster’s Ball script because of it. “I was shocked; I was riveted; I was moved, sad, angry,” she told the Post. “I felt I could totally relate to this woman character,” she told the Post, “she was strong, yet very vulnerable; she was angry, but very fragile. She went on a journey and, at the end, through her perseverance and strength, she bettered her life.” She wasted no time in calling her agent and pushing for the role. The rest is history — and in this case, legitimate history — as Berry became the first (and, to date, only) African-American woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress.