Five years ago, the future looked bright for Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry, her beau at the time. They were soon to be parents of a daughter, and the two appeared to be on top of the world.
Fast forward to November 2012: friends of both the actress and the former model worry that the bitterness surrounding their split and the custody battle over their daughter, Nahla, may just ruin them both in the end.
According to police reports, Aubry and Olivier Martinez, Berry’s current fiancé, engaged in a brutal brawl on Thanksgiving morning after Aubry arrived to drop off Nahla at Berry’s Hollywood home.
Accounts differ in court documents as to who threw the first punch, but no one disputes that Aubry and Martinez were involved in a nasty fight that left Aubry with a black eye, a swollen face, and a broken rib while Martinez reportedly received a broken hand. Aubry was arrested and booked on suspicion of misdemeanor battery.
“It all happened so fast,” Berry reportedly told friends.
Those who spoke with the actress afterward say she immediately pulled her 4-year-old daughter into the house when the fight broke out.
“Halle didn’t even understand what either man was saying a lot of the time because they were cursing and swearing in French to one another,” said the friend. “She didn’t know what set it off.”
Martinez is from France, and Aubry is originally from Canada.
Martinez accused Aubry of starting the fight in the driveway of Berry’s home, and then made a citizen’s arrest before the police arrived, according to police and news reports. On Monday, Aubry filed his own court papers accusing Martinez of ambushing him and then pushing him to the ground with violent punches that he could not return. Martinez reportedly studied boxing in his younger days in France. Berry has filed a restraining order that forbids Aubry from coming near her, Nahla, or Martinez. Aubry has taken out a restraining order against Martinez.
This most recent chaos is just another chapter in the soap opera that has become Berry’s life, say those who know her well. Two failed marriages and a number of other soured relationships have caused the 46-year-old actress more than her share of heartache, soul searching, and embarrassment over the past few years, say friends.
“It’s hard to watch because I saw it coming,” said a Berry confidante. “Their break up was painful and it involved a child. Before she could just walk away from the men because she was Halle Berry and she was very rich and very famous. That didn’t work this time and she has no idea what to do now but fight. But fighting doesn’t always mean winning, and winning doesn’t always mean you won.”
The five-year relationship with Aubry that ended in 2010 was deeply rooted in love when it began, say friends of the model, who add that Berry, in her early 40s, desperately wanted a child and that Aubry was happy to begin a family with the actress nine years his senior.
“She told him early on she wanted a child and that was her focus for a good deal of their early relationship,” said a friend of Aubry’s. “He didn’t see the problems that would lead to if they ever split.”
Happy days for the couple would end shortly after Nahla’s birth and soon a custody battle began, with court filings filled with accusations of abuse and the use of the “N” word directed toward Berry. She fought for primary custody but was denied, and earlier this year she was ordered to pay Aubry $20,000 a month in child-care payments. Berry and Aubry now share 50/50 custody of Nahla.
According to friends of both Berry and Aubry, what upset him most were not the custody fight or the damaging allegations but the news of Berry’s engagement to French actor Martinez in 2011.
“A break from dating would have been good for both them,” says a friend of the couple. “There was still so much emotion from that relationship left that they really needed a minute to deal with it and the baby was just 2 years old. But like a lot of women, Halle doesn’t like being alone. She doesn’t like the way that feels.”
Berry has seen her stock drop significantly since winning the Best Actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball in 2001. Last month Cloud Atlas, her most recent film, tanked at the box office.
“This doesn’t help her career at all,” said Fred Mwangaguhunga founder and editor of Media Takeout, the nation’s largest black entertainment website. “It showcases Halle’s long list of bad decisions in film roles and in her personal life. She continues to make bad decision after bad decision even as she gets older.”
One very bad decision, according to Mwangaguhunga, was Berry’s attempt to move to Paris to live with Martinez in his home country. Earlier this year Berry’s lawyers petitioned the courts again for primary custody of Nahla and for the right to move to France with her daughter.
“How does it make sense for her career to move to France as an African American actress of a certain age?” asks Mwangaguhunga. “How does it make sense to take your daughter away from her father? How does it make sense that he would allow that without a fight?”
Berry’s representatives could not be reached for comment.
Last month the Los Angeles Courts denied Berry primary custody again as well as the right to move Nahla from California to France.
That defeat in court may have set the stage for the fight that occurred last week and could now impact both Martinez and Aubry’s immediate futures, say friends.
“Halle and Olivier thought they had a good chance of winning what they wanted and leaving the country this last time around, ‘’ says a friend of Berry’s. “They thought Halle made a good argument for the move, particularly since she also had a stalker to deal with,” said a friend. “The constant mess with Aubry and other accusations of abuse from Aubry since they split seemed to be a way of getting the court to side with her side but they didn’t.”
Last year Berry accused Aubry in court of attacking the babysitter who held Nahla in her arms during a visitation pickup. Berry said Aubry pushed the nanny to get the child. Aubry has denied the charge.
Sources close to Aubry say he believes the violent events that occurred Thursday morning at Berry’s home were all a set up to reopen the custody hearing and renew the discussion of Berry moving to France and marrying Martinez.
In court papers filed Monday, Aubry said Martinez told him that he’d cost the couple $3 million dollars and “that the next time he saw the judge he’d better tell him he’d move to Paris as well.” The judge ruled that Berry could only take Nahla to France if Aubry agreed to move there also.
Aubry added in court papers that requested a restraining order against Martinez, that the French actor told him “he’d kill him” if he didn’t follow directions so the overseas move could take place.
On Wednesday police said both Berry and her babysitter are expected to be star witnesses in the case to determine if charges will be filed against either man. An unnamed police source says LAPD now seems to view the fight as a mutual attack. Barring new information, the source doubts actual charges will be brought against either man. Aubry is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 13 to respond to possible misdemeanor charges for the fight with Martinez.
If the plan was indeed to agitate Aubry so he’d react negatively and force a court hearing to go in Berry’s favor it may have worked in the short term but not in the long run, say friends.
“This is not how Halle wanted this to turn out,” says a friend. “She’s being vilified to some extent because of the men she chooses to become involved with. Aubry is tripping but for Martinez to beat him up like that is just ugly for all sides. Every one is hurting here. There is no win, win.”
Though there seems to be no end in sight for drama and chaos that continues to surround Berry, friends and family say what concerns them most is the real victim in this ongoing domestic drama.
“Nahla loses either way and all the way around,” says a long-time Berry friend. “She sees her father getting beaten up by her mother’s boyfriend in front of her home and knows her Daddy had to go to jail. She has no idea what’s going on. This has been going on half her life. Poor kid.”