Halle Berry writes tribute to late Sidney Poitier

The "Bruised" actor/director wrote about how one of Poitier's films reached her in a profound way.

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Sidney Poitier was the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. Halle Berry was the first Black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. Berry not only saw a connection with Poitier, but viewed him as an inspiration.

Following his death, she penned a loving tribute to him for Variety.

Poitier passed away on Jan. 7 at age 94, as theGrio reported. The Bahamian-American brought a range and class to trailblazing roles from To Sir, With Love, The Defiant Ones, In the Heat of the Night, Lilies in the Field and several others. Berry took inspiration from Poitier as she carved out her own legacy, turning in unforgettable and poignant performances in Jungle Fever, Losing Isaiah, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and Monster’s Ball.

Berry even followed in Poitier’s footsteps by turning to filmmaking. Poitier directed several films, including his popular string of mid-1970’s comedies with Bill CosbyUptown Saturday Night, Let’s Do It Again, and A Piece of the Action — as well as the 1980 box office smash comedy, Stir Crazy, starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. In 2021, Berry stepped into the director’s chair for the first time for her film, Bruised, in which she also starred.

In her tribute, titled “Sidney Poitier’s Boundless Legacy,” Berry revealed how one of Poitier’s films helped her cope with a real-life struggle during her childhood. As a child, Berry watched Poitier’s performance in the 1969 film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Co-starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Houghton, the movie was about a Black man marrying a white woman and the strong reactions from their respective families. Berry, the product of a biracial union, related strongly.

Sidney Poitier in “To Sir, with Love.” (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

“There I sat in front of my mom’s old console, mesmerized, as I watched my family’s dynamic play out,” Berry wrote. “For the first time in my childhood, I felt seen. Understood. Validated. The world already knew Sidney, who died last week at 94, as a formidable performer. But I first experienced him as a mirror.”

From there, Berry followed Poitier’s career and the dignified way he carried himself in each role. “Over the years, I looked to him as a sterling example, as a template of manhood and all that is honorable,” she wrote.

When Berry’s parents split up when she was four, Poitier filled a void she felt from her own alcoholic father’s absence.

“In my mind’s eye, and in my father’s absence, Sidney epitomized what a man should be: unflappable and courageous, eloquent and proud, charming and handsome,” she wrote.

When Berry won her Oscar, Poitier was in the audience to see her accept her award. Thinking she wouldn’t win, she had no speech prepared, but thought of her hero as she approached the stage to receive her trophy.

“In the absence of a written speech, my subconscious came pouring forth, a mix of gratitude and astonishment, a recognition of those who’d paved my way — just as Sidney had,” Berry wrote.

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