At the movies

Call 911! It’s Halle Berry and Morris Chestnut

 

mmarr@miamiherald.com

A 911 operator may be one of the most underappreciated jobs out there. But maybe not after The Call comes out on Friday.

Halle Berry plays Jordan Turner, a veteran worker at the so-called Hive call center in Los Angeles, who has to keep an even keel trying to save an abducted teenager ( Abigail Breslin) locked in a trunk with a cellphone.

The Oscar winner ( Monster’s Ball) was at the Mandarin Oriental Miami Hotel to talk about the thriller, with her costar Morris Chestnut ( Think Like A Man), who plays a cop and Jordan’s love interest.

How did you think the movie came out?

HB: Much of the filming I wasn’t there for. I was in the call center most of the time so I missed what they were doing. I could only imagine, but, wow, I was even scared! It turned out better than I thought. It was shot in just 20 days. It was shot as fast as it plays.

MC: No one ever sets out to do a bad movie. People don’t say, ‘Oh, we’re going to spend $30 million for a bad movie!’ [Laughs]. There are so many elements involved. To have a movie like this come together when everyone does their part well: from the director, to the editors, to the actors. I’m just proud.

How did you get involved with this project?

HB: They came to me about two years before filming, but I wasn’t able to do it because I had other obligations. I kept thinking they were going to go with someone else. I didn’t want them to. Luckily for me, they waited. Then they said, ‘What do you think of Morris Chestnut as your love [interest?’ I said, ‘Yes, please!’

MC: Halle was already attached when I got involved. There’s no one else I could see playing the role.

What kind of prep work did you have to do?

HB: You get a different perspective by doing research. I think we both did. That’s part of our job... to find the truth in it. You can’t know what it’s like to be a cop even though you’ve seen it in the movies. But nobody ever saw a 911 center. I thought they lived in the ground somewhere! It was interesting to see who they were and how they deal and how stressful it can be. I was a wreck [watching them]. They would just be as cool as can be doing their thing. I thought, ‘I could never do this job.’

So you have a new respect for the profession now, right?

HB: Yes. They are who you call first. They are integral in the process. I take my hat off to them. The way they can stay so detached but are human. And people call for the dumbest thing, like, ‘I can’t get my cable to work!’ Or they call drunk: ‘I’m trying to get to my house, and I’m lost!’ They have to deal with those kind of calls as well as real emergencies.

Have you had any personal experiences with phoning 911?

HB: I had a break-in [in 2011] and they let me hear a callback. The thing I remember the woman kept saying is ‘Ma’am, be quiet!’ And what I kept saying is, ‘Thank God my daughter’s not here, thank God my daughter’s not here.’ At one point I had to put my hand over my mouth. I couldn’t stop talking out of my fear.

Does your daughter [4-year-old Nahla] know how to dial 911?

HB: I have a CD to play at home that teaches kids what to say and what to do. We do a little drill. This movie woke me up.

Follow the writer www.twitter.com/madeleinemarr

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