Halle Berry’s Moonfall Hero Went Through A Massive Change Before Filming Began

A character like Halle Berry’s Moonfall hero Jocinda Fowler is someone we’d expect to see in a disaster epic of this kind. Taking charge as the deputy director of NASA, Jo is a vital player in humanity’s last ditch efforts to thwart a lunar apocalypse, using the full authority at her disposal to do so. While her character was always important to co-writer/director Roland Emmerich’s latest opus of destruction, Ms. Fowler went through a massive change before filming began, as she was initially written as a man. 

Similar to how Alien shifted the character of Ripley when casting Sigourney Weaver, Lionsgate’s big 2022 blockbuster saw Ms. Berry’s role altered in a way that facilitated her casting. During interviews conducted on behalf of the film, I asked around about how this strategy may have changed the story, and why it came to be in the first place. To answer that second question, I spoke with Roland Emmerich himself, and he told CinemaBlend about the one thing that made him reconsider Jocinda Fowler: 

Well, I kind of just felt that three men in space is not gonna work for me. So I was looking at a lot of actresses, and I discovered Halle Berry. Oscar winning actress, super super grounded, well versed in her craft, and I made her the second in command at NASA; who has to take over and come up with all of these crazy things that you see in the movie.

Besides the fact that Roland Emmerich has made “men in space” movies before with Stargate and Independence Day, the change to this Moonfall protagonist tracks with his record of casting outside the norm. Even as far back as his 1996 alien invasion picture, the prospect of casting Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller was met by pushback from studio brass. Had they gotten their way, Ethan Hawke or another perspective actor would have been put into that position. This time around, it seems that Roland Emmerich kept that victory firmly in mind, and changed things up before any debate could have taken place.

Naturally, Halle Berry’s credentials are enough of an ace in the hole when casting her in anything. In his story about retooling Jocinda Fowler into the character she currently is, Roland Emmerich mentioned pretty much every reason why you’d want an actor of her caliber to be in this very movie. Changing this Moonfall protagonist to a female role added some interesting textures that help expand what could have been a stock authority figure in charge of saving the world. When it came time to talk to Ms. Berry about how those changes influenced the role and her performance, she shared the following:

She was a mother, that was a big addition that had to be changed. The job at NASA, I think either gender can occupy that job. What made it different was that now she was a mother of a small child. So going to space now meant something different, which is why I don’t ever think I’d take one of these trips to go to space, because I am a mother. I wouldn’t take that chance, but now we had a mother who was deciding to go to space and try to save the world, and leave her child, realizing she might never come back. She took that risk, so for me, those were the kinds of things that made it different.

As we learn throughout Moonfall, Jocinda Fowler has a young son and an estranged ex-husband in her personal life. With her NASA position being high pressured on a normal day, the adventure that soon arises only complicates things further. In the efforts to try and get to the bottom of why the Moon is going to crash into Earth, and what we can do to stop it, she has to work with General Doug Davidson, that estranged ex-husband we mentioned earlier. 

Played by Eme Ikwuakor, General Davidson is another role that gets some atypical notes added in the wake of gender flipping Halle Berry’s protagonist. Though he’s a strict, chain of command sort who acts as Chief of Staff in the United States Air Force, Moonfall allows Ikwakor to play towards aspects you’d normally expect from a “traditional” female supporting character. In discussing Doug's character with Mr. Ikwuakor, the actor admired these components that he was given to play around with: 

I’m really fascinated by stories like this. It’s the element of what would you do when death is iminent, and that’s what’s happening when the Moon is coming to Earth. Playing this character, I just saw him as this A-type, forward nose to the ground personality. But the thing that attracted me was this guy was always playing catch up in a way. He’s so confident in regards to being this head chief of staff for the Air Force, but the insecurities that he has is actually with connecting with his wife, and realizing that he’s made a mistake with his son. At the same time as he’s trying to save the world, in his own element, he’s also trying to establish a relationship that he completely missed.

While Jocinda is up in space trying to save the world with astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and conspiracy theorist Dr. K.C. Houseman (John Bradley),  Doug is on Earth trying to convince the Air Force that she’s got the situation under control. If you know your Roland Emmerich movies, you can see the challenges this position entails, and the results that play out are even more rewarding when looking back at the changes that were made. Also, if you were to make a list of actors you’d totally trust to save the world in space, Halle Berry would definitely be on that roster of would-be saviors.

Eme Ikwuakor standing in a bunker's doorway in Moonfall.

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

By making movies like Moonfall as confidently as he does, Roland Emmerich continues to play in a sandbox as familiar as Irwin Allen-style disaster movies, while also pushing the limits of what can be done in such a tale. It’s part of what makes his periodic return to the genre so exciting, as those tweaks are what separate the entries of Emmerich’s filmography with distinction. 

Thanks to that confidence, we might just have another entry to add to the list of Halle Berry’s most badass performances. It’s a possibility the world will have to evaluate for itself, as Moonfall is now colliding into a theater near you. We’re still in the early days of the schedule for 2022 movie releases, so when you’ve settled your trip to the Moon, take a look and see where you feel like going next. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.