“The Call” isn’t a remake, a sequel, a reimagining or a relaunch. What it is, according to star Halle Berry, is a good, old-fashioned suspense thriller.
“I just hope it gets people's attention and they'll think, 'Oh, that looks like a good movie' and go check it out,” the star said of the film, which casts her as a longtime 911 emergency operator in Los Angeles who receives a call from a teenager (Abigail Breslin) who’s been abducted and confined in the trunk of a car – and as Berry’s character struggles to keep the girl safe, she discovers an unexpected connection to her own past.
“The Call” is a bit of throwback to the kind of high-concept, reliable thrillers Hollywood crafted over decades. “I love the genre and I haven't done this in awhile,” Berry enthused. “And I really love the character: she's so empowered and strong. And I don't get offered movies or find movies that allow me to do what I get to do here and have so many levels and have so much meat on the bone.”
The actress, who won an Oscar for 2001’s “Monster’s Ball,” admitted that some of her choices of films are made simply to keep herself gainfully employed. “I'm not always so selective,” she says. “Sometimes we have to work, because this isn't a hobby – this is how I earn a living, and I do what I can do. But this movie I was really excited about because it was well-written, it was a page-turner, it's a great role for a woman, and I love the genre where you kick some butt!”
The film’s director Brad Anderson, a veteran of taught TV dramas including “The Wire,” “The Killing,” “Fringe” and “Boardwalk Empire,” said he was eager to craft a fresh film in a long stylistic tradition. “We were just going for something that was really gutsy and real and believable and fast,” he explained. “I don't know if we were really using other films as references as much as just trying to make our style of how we were making this movie work for the material. But certainly I love suspense thrillers, in general. I've done a couple others. And so there's always a little Hitchcock in there. There's always a little Polanski. There's a little bit of those auteurs who could deal with that drama so well.”
Breslin says while she was intrigued at getting a look at Berry’s Oscar-backed bona fides, she was most impressed with the woman behind the movie star glamour who showed up to work each day. “She's extremely professional and just nice to everybody on set, and she's just really cool,” said the 16-year-old actress.
“She's very sweet, very giving,” agreed co-star Morris Chestnut, “What was really cool to get to know about Halle is that she's beloved around the world, she's considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, and for her to be just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside was just very refreshing – especially in this town.”
Berry trained with real-life 911 operators in Los Angeles to get a bead on her character’s professional life, monitoring all sorts of life-threatening situations. “It was scary,” she said. “I had some sleepless nights.” WWE wrestler-turned-actor David Otunga got an even more harrowing up-close experience: “I did a police ride-along preparing for this and we actually got to go on a call where this guy had just been stabbed,” said Otunga. “We were sitting there, right there, literally, as he was dying. We don't even know if he lived or died. That's as close as I got to it.”