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Monster's Ball
Director: Marc Forster (Dir)
Release Date:   18 Jan 2002
Premiere Information:   World premiere at AFI Fest, Los Angeles: 11 Nov 2001; Los Angeles and New York opening: 26 Dec 2001
Production Date:   15 May--early Jul 2001
Duration (in mins):   111-112
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Cast: In order of appearance Billy Bob Thornton (Hank Grotowski)  
    Taylor Simpson (Lucille)  
    Gabrielle Witcher (Betty)  
    Heath Ledger (Sonny Grotowski)  
    Amber Rules (Vera)  
  and Peter Boyle (Buck Grotowski)  
    Charles Cowan Jr. (Willie Cooper)  
    Taylor LaGrange (Darryl Cooper)  
    Mos Def (Ryrus Cooper)  
    Anthony Bean (Dappa Smith)  
    Francine Segal (Georgia Ann Paynes)  
    John McConnell (Harvey Shoonmaker)  
    Marcus Lyle Brown (Phil Huggins)  
    Milo Addica (Tommy Roulaine)  
    Leah Loftin (Booter)  
    Halle Berry (Leticia Musgrove)  
    Coronji Calhoun (Tyrell Musgrove)  
    Sean Combs (Lawrence Musgrove)  
    Larry Lee (CO #1)  
    Troy Poret (CO #2)  
    Paul Smith (CO #3)  
    Marshall Cain (Correction officer)  
    Will Rokos (Warden Velasco)  
    Anthony Michael Frederick (Billy)  
    John Wilmot (Minister)  
    Dennis Clements (Clements)  
    Stephanie Claire (Nurse)  
    Jamie Haven (Hospital guard)  
    Ritchie Montgomery (Detective)  
    Clara Daniels (Maggie Cooper)  
    Carol Sutton (Mrs. Guillermo)  
    Bernard Johnson (Deputy Jones)  

Summary: In rural Georgia, taciturn Hank Grotowski works as a corrections officer at the state penitentiary, and lives with his racist, invalid father Buck and emotionally troubled grown son Sonny. One morning, Buck cuts out a newspaper article about the upcoming execution of African-American prisoner Lawrence Musgrove and adds it to his scrapbook, which contains articles about his time as a prison guard. Buck then complains about the presence of Willie and Darryl, the children of the Grotowskis’ black neighbor, Ryrus Cooper, and Hank aims a shotgun blast over the boys’s heads to frighten them away. As he is about to drive to work, Hank is reprimanded by Ryrus, who states that the children are friends with the unprejudiced Sonny, but Hank is unmoved. At the prison, Hank and his team, which includes Sonny, prepare for the execution, and Hank berates Sonny after he makes a mistake. The guards then take Sonny out for a drink, and Hank explains that the experienced officers always host a party for a guard working his first execution, and that it is called a “monster’s ball.” Hank again cautions his son to be careful, and tries to convey the importance of treating a prisoner with respect during his final hours. Meanwhile, Lawrence is visited by his wife Leticia and young son Tyrell, who has inherited his father's artistic talent. Leticia, weary of visiting Lawrence on death row and of the poverty in which she and Tyrell live, is resigned to Lawrence’s death, but Tyrell is devastated by the thought of never seeing his father again. Lawrence promises to call Tyrell before he dies, but before the execution, Hank informs Lawrence that Warden Velasco has decided not to allow him the privilege of a last phone call. As Sonny and Hank sit with Lawrence in an isolated area of the prison, Lawrence sketches a portrait of Sonny. Sonny is deeply moved by the portrait, and when his emotions threaten to unbalance Lawrence's calm acceptance of his fate, Hank pushes Sonny aside and helps Lawrence to regain control of himself. While Lawrence then sketches Hank, Leticia and Tyrell sit at home, awaiting his call. When Leticia leaves to purchase some whiskey, the overweight Tyrell eats a candy bar from his hidden stash. Upon her return, Letitica finds chocolate on Tyrell’s face and verbally humiliates the boy while slapping him. At the prison, as Hank and Sonny escort Lawrence on his “last walk,” Sonny, unable to bear the stress, suddenly stops to vomit. Another guard takes Sonny’s place and helps Hank to strap Lawrence into the electric chair. After the execution, Hank confronts Sonny and viciously attacks him for failing in his duty. Two guards pull them apart, and the following morning, Hank bursts into Sonny’s bedroom and orders him to move out. Sonny pulls a pistol on Hank, however, and makes him go to the living room, where Buck is sitting. After Hank coldly states that he hates Sonny, Sonny replies that he has always loved him, then shoots and kills himself. On the same day that Hank and Buck bury Sonny in the back yard, next to the graves of their respective wives, Leticia is fired from her job. After the funeral, Hank collects Sonny’s things, puts them in his room and padlocks the door shut, although he carefully preserves the bullet that killed Sonny after prying it out of a chair. Later, Hank goes to his favorite diner for his usual late-night snack of coffee and chocolate ice cream, and meets Leticia, who has just been hired. The next day, Hank resigns from the prison and burns his uniform, despite Buck’s accusation that he is a quitter like his mother, who committed suicide. Later, Hank meets gas station owner Dennis Clements to discuss buying the station. As he is driving home in rainstorm, Hank stops to help Leticia and Tyrell, who has been hit by an automobile. Hank rushes the boy to the hospital, and later is asked by a policeman to take the hysterical Leticia home after Tyrell dies. One afternoon, Hank surprises Ryrus by quietly accepting the Cooper children’s condolences about Sonny’s death. Hank then sees Leticia walking to work and gives her a ride to the diner, where he surprises her by handing her a generous tip. Hank buys Clements’ gas station and ignores the derisive Buck, who advises him to stick to being a prison guard. The next time Hank goes to the diner, he unexpectedly sits at the counter and talks with Leticia while eating his ice cream. He offers to take her home, and at Leticia’s, the couple drink whiskey and discuss their sons. When Leticia shows Hank Lawrence and Tyrell’s drawings, he realizes who she is, but does not reveal his own connection to Lawrence. As Leticia becomes drunk and overwhelmed by grief, she begs Hank to make her feel good, and Hank, desperately needing “to feel again,” feverishly has sex with her. When Hank returns home in the morning, he discovers that Buck fell while trying to bathe, and the older man laments his increasing fraility. Hank then takes Sonny’s truck to the Coopers’ and asks Ryrus to repair it, and the boys to wash it. Leticia at first refuses when Hank offers the truck to her, but he insists that it is what his son would have wanted. The couple become more deeply involved, and one day, Leticia sells her wedding ring to buy Hank a new cowboy hat. When she drops the hat off at Hank’s, however, she meets Buck, and his virulently racist remarks send her fleeing from the house. Hank, who was with Ryrus, walks up as Leticia is leaving, and, knowing that his father must have upset her, begs her to stay, but she drives away. Unable to continue living with Buck, Hank puts him in a nursing home, then systematically cleans and repaints his house to make it brighter. Although Leticia refuses to talk to Hank, even when he tells her that he has sent Buck away, Hank renames the gas station “Leticia’s” and tells Ryrus that she is his girl friend. Soon after, Leticia is evicted, and as she sits on the lawn with her belongings, Hank drives up and helps her move into his home. Hank puts Tyrell’s possessions in Sonny’s room, and although he offers Leticia her own bedroom, she declares that she will be more comfortable sleeping with him. Hank promises to take care of her, and after tenderly making love to her, leaves to buy ice cream. While Hank is gone, Leticia wanders up to Sonny’s room and there finds the sketches of him and Hank drawn by Lawrence. Finally realizing who Hank is, Leticia cries out in pain. Upon Hank’s return, Leticia mutely sits with him on the back steps, from which she can see the graves in the yard. Hank gently feeds her some ice cream and mentions that he stopped at “their” station on the way home. When Hank muses that they are “going to be all right,” Leticia realizes that, together, they can surmount the grief in their lives and remains with him, staring up at the stars. 

Production Company: Lions Gate Films, Inc.  
Production Text: A Lee Daniels Entertainment Production
Distribution Company: Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.  
Director: Marc Forster (Dir)
  Michael Lerman (1st asst dir)
  James Roque, Jr. (2d asst dir)
  Bartou Chandler (2d 2d asst dir)
Producer: Lee Daniels (Prod)
  Michael Paseornek (Exec prod)
  Michael Burns (Exec prod)
  Mark Urman (Exec prod)
  Will Rokos (Co-prod)
  Milo Addica (Co-prod)
  Eric Kopeloff (Co-prod/Line prod)
Writer: Milo Addica (Wrt)
  Will Rokos (Wrt)
Photography: Roberto Schaefer (Dir of photog)
  Francis James (2d unit, dir of photog)
  Peter Kerr 'P.K.' Munson (1st asst cam)
  Ian Lynch (2d unit, 1st asst cam)
  Matt Gaumer (2d asst cam)
  Lynda Vincent (Loader)
  Joe Uddo (Cam PA)
  Ralph Watson (Steadicam op)
  Jerry Jacobs (Steadicam op)
  Paul T. Leblanc (24 frame video playback)
  Mike McLaughlin (Gaffer)
  Victor Keatley (Best boy elec)
  Bob Bates (Elec)
  Chewie Pappas (Elec)
  Mike Smith (Elec)
  Sean Funnegan (Elec)
  Gilly Charbonnet (Key grip)
  Don Wegner (Best boy grip)
  Buddy Carr (Dolly grip)
  Paul Beard (Company grip)
  Christopher Eckstrom (Company grip)
  Jason Goodowens (Company grip)
  Francis James (2nd unit, dir of photog)
  Ian Lynch (2nd unit, 1st asst cam)
  Coastal grip (Grip and elec equipment provided by)
Art Direction: Monroe Kelly (Prod des)
  Leonard Spears (Art dir)
  Vince Leblanc (Leadman)
  Mary Frances Elgin (Art dept coord)
Film Editor: Matt Chessé (Ed)
  Richard Jordan (Sr. VP, of physical operations)
  Meagan James (1st asst ed)
  John Homesley (Asst ed)
  Executive Cutting (Negative cutter)
  The Amazing Beverly Wood (Lab consultant)
  Entertainment Post (Video dailies by)
  Larry P. Manke (Telecine colorist)
Set Decoration: David Erwin (On-set dresser)
  Daniel Fox (Set dresser)
  Eric Pierson (Set dresser)
  Steve Walters (Charge scenic)
  George 'Chuck' Stringer (Const coord)
  Leo Lauricella (Carpenter)
  John Patterson (Carpenter)
  Genevieve Leyh (Asst scenic)
  Danny Nick (Swing)
  Russell Slaughter (Swing)
  Peter Bankins (Prop master)
  Holly Goline (Asst prop master)
  Michael Blum (Props prod asst)
  Stuart Rankine (Props prod asst)
  Kristin Hensley (Lawrence Musgrove's artwork by)
Costumes: Frank Fleming (Cost des)
  Severin Serafini (Cost stylist)
  Donna Chance (Cost supv)
  Caroline Eselin (Set cost)
  Dana Embree (Addl set cost)
  Giselle Spence (Seamstress)
  Meagan McLaughlin (Ward prod asst)
Music: Asche and Spencer (Mus comp)
  Joel C. High (Mus supv)
  Prism Sound ADA-8 (Audio A/D conversion by)
  Stephanie Urcheck (Mus coord)
  Bob Demea (Mixed by)
Sound: Glenn T. Morgan (Supv sd des & ed)
  Lisle Engle (Sd ed)
  Jeff Pullman (Sd mixer)
  Jimmy 'Coach' Armstrong (Boom op)
  Jeffrey Haupt (Addl sd mixer)
  Rick Ashe (Re-rec mixer)
  Joe Earle (Re-rec mixer)
  Drew Webster (Re-rec mixer)
  Michael Kamper (Sd des)
  David Ruth (Dial & ADR ed)
  Trevor Jolly (Dial & ADR ed)
  Hugh Murphy (Digital asst)
  Jennifer Mann (Foley ed)
  Pat Cabral (Foley ed)
  Zane Bruce (Foley artist)
  Joseph Sabella (Foley artist)
  Brian Ruberg (Foley mixer)
  Greg Steele (ADR mixer)
  Weldon Brown (ADR mixer)
  Diane Lucas (ADR rec)
  Steve Ralston (Addl audio)
  Pat Stoltz (Addl audio)
  Gayle Wesley (Addl audio)
  Kim Waugh (Addl audio)
  Caitlin McKeena (ADR loop group by)
  Don Fullilove (ADR loop group talent)
  Elisa Gabrella (ADR loop group talent)
  Donna Lyn Levy (ADR loop group talent)
  Steve Apostolima (ADR loop group talent)
  Paul Pape (ADR loop group talent)
  Wendy Cutler (ADR loop group talent)
  Arnold Turner (ADR loop group talent)
  Eddie Frierson (ADR loop group talent)
Special Effects: David Nami (Spec eff coord)
  Edward Bankston (Spec eff asst)
  William A. Nami (Spec eff asst)
  Brian Bankston (Spec eff prod asst)
  Glen Palmisano (Spec eff prod asst)
  Title House (Opticals by)
  Sol Designfx (Main title and Visual eff)
  MB Emigh (Title des)
  Jeff Heusser (Digital compositing supv)
  Michael Hatcher (Digital artist)
  Colleen Duffy (Visual eff prod)
Make Up: Brian Badie (Hairstylist)
  Joani Yarbrough (Mr. Thornton's hair)
  Sterfon Demings (Ms. Berry's hair)
  Allison Gordin (Makeup artist)
  Lynne Eagan (Mr. Thornton's makeup)
  Mary Burton (Ms. Berry's makeup)
  Carla Chao (Asst makeup)
Production Misc: Billy Hopkins (Casting)
  Suzanne Smith (Casting)
  Kerry Barden (Casting)
  Mark Bennett (Casting)
  Rick Landry (Louisiana casting by)
  Rob Ortiz (Unit prod mgr)
  Sharon Vise (Prod accountant)
  Mark Miller (1st asst accountant)
  Caleb Guillote (Payroll clerk)
  David Ross McCarty (Loc mgr)
  Marco Umana (Asst loc mgr)
  Jessica Siefert McCarty (Loc asst)
  Gerard Sellers (Loc scout)
  Jeremy Walker & Associates (Pub)
  Jeanne Louise Bulliard (Pub photog)
  Michael Taylor (Scr supv)
  Alissa Miller Kantrow (Prod coord)
  Tessa Brophy (Asst prod coord)
  Carl Pedregal (Post prod supv)
  Frank Moshier (Post prod coord)
  Ryan Eustis (Office prod asst)
  Cynthia Tanner (Office prod asst)
  Lisa Cortes (Asst to Mr. Daniels)
  Rosemary Lara (Asst to Mr. Paseornek)
  Daniel Katz (Asst to Mr. Urman)
  Kirstin Scott (Asst to Mr. Thornton)
  Leonard Reynolds (Key set prod asst)
  G. "Opey" Davis (Set prod asst)
  Terence Rosemore (Set prod asst)
  Sherman Shelton (Set prod asst)
  Barry Steadman (Set prod asst)
  Wise Wolfe (Set prod asst)
  Tonia Pound (Set prod asst)
  Kristin Hensley (Unit prod asst)
  Mike Mahone (Prod intern)
  Jerry Jackson (Transportation coord)
  Rick Davis (Transportation co-coord)
  Jerry Everett (Transportation capt)
  Davis Hawn (Van driver/Picture car wrangler)
  W. "Butch" Chaney (Driver)
  Nelson P. Conino (Driver)
  Jeremy Jaklevick (Driver)
  Bill "Duke" Kuhn (Driver)
  Al Sens (Driver)
  Dennis Monk (Driver)
  David J. Prestenback (Picture car prod asst)
  Robbie Stubblefield (Picture car prod asst)
  Marco Umana (Security)
  Location Catering Service (Caterer)
  Billy Hershey (Chef)
  Steve Zeigler (Asst chef)
  Win Hershy (Chef/Driver)
  Chris Cowart (Third man)
  Lagniappe's Craft Service (Craft service)
  Joseph L. Coble (Craft service)
  Susie Blanchard (Set medic)
  Donna Sloan (VP of prod, Lions Gate Entertainment)
  Betty Lee (Prod controller)
  Jake Donahoe (Post prod accountant)
  Curtis A. Miller (Mgr of prod)
  Daniel MacArthur (Prod asst)
  Wayne Levin (Exec VP, bus affairs)
  Laurie May (Sr. VP, bus & legal affairs)
  Robert Melnick (VP, bus affairs)
  Charlyn Ware (Mgr of bus & legal affairs)
  Danny Lee (Bus & legal affairs asst)
  Nikki Lawder (Bus & legal affairs asst)
  Jeff Joon Park (Bus & legal affairs asst)
  Kelly Lofstrom (Bus & legal affairs asst)
  AON/Albert G. Ruben Insurance (Insurance provided by)
  Brian Kingman (Insurance provided by)
  Cheech Bradford (Insurance provided by)
  The Motion Picture Bond Company (Completion bond provided by)
  Al Dickerson (Completion bond provided by)
  Axium/Avalon (Payroll services by)
  Sam Chwat (Speech & dialect coach)
  New York Speech Improvement Services (Speech & dialect coach)
Stand In: Harry Harris (Stunt coord)
  Danny Cosmo (Utility stunt)
Color Personnel: Harry Muller (Col timing)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Broken Up and Blue," performed by Red Meat, written by Jill Olson, published by Olson Girl Publishing (ASCAP), administered by Bug Music, Inc., courtesy of Ranchero Records; "(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden," performed by Lynn Anderson, written by Joe Smith, published by Sony/ATV Songs LLC (BMI), courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing; "Your Love Is My Rest," performed by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, written by John Hiatt, published by Careers-BMG Music Publishing, Inc., courtesy of Rounder Records, by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group; "Licensed to Kill," performed by Bob Dylan, written by Bob Dylan, published by Special Rider Music (SESAC), courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing; "I Couldn't Love You (More Than I Do Now)," performed by Jean Wells, written by Jean Wells, published by IZA Music Corporation (BMI), courtesy of Sugaroo!, licensed by The Clyde Otis Music Group; "I'm Your Man," performed by The Jayhawks, written by The Jayhawks, published by Abstinthe Music/Warner Tamberlane Publishing Co., courtesy of American Recordings, produced by Asche and Spencer.
Composer: Bob Dylan
  John Hiatt
  The Jayhawks
  Jill Olson
  Joe Smith
  Jean Wells
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Lions Gate Films, Inc. 7/1/2001 dd/mm/yyyy PA0001075797

PCA NO: 38589
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby; SDDS (Sony Digital Dynamic Sound); DTS Digital Sound in selected theatres
  col: color and processing by DeLuxe Laboratories
  gauge: 35mm

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): Fathers and sons
  Love affairs
  Prison guards
Subjects (Minor): African Americans
  Aged men
  Automobile accidents
  Battered children
  Diners (Restaurants)
  Death and dying
  Death row
  Electric chair
  Ice cream
  Mothers and sons
  Nursing homes

Note: The film's opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. According to a 12 Aug 2001 LAT article, the film's title is based on a medieval English tradition, by which prisoners awaiting execution were called "monsters" and jailers would hold a "monsters' ball" the night before the prisoners were put to death.
       According to the film's presskit, when the film's script was completed in 1995, writers Milo Addica and Will Rokos originally considered casting actors Robert De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones and hiring either director Sean Penn or Oliver Stone, but their respective salary requirements exceeded the film's budget. According to a 1 Jun 1998 DV article, Eric Cahan and Happy Walters were considered for producers, and a 30 Mar 1999 HR article states that video and commercial director Sam Bayer was to make his feature-directing debut helming Monster's Ball . Subsequently, an 8 Oct 1999 HR article reports that Vondie Curtis Hall would direct and Eric Cahan and Lawrence Bender would produce the film. A 12 Aug 2001 LAT article states that Addica and Rokos were in negotiations with Atlas Entertainment and then Fine Line Features to produce the film.
       Information in the presskit explains that Lions Gate Films finally committed to produce the film once Billy Bob Thorton was cast in the lead, at a fraction of his regular salary. At that time, Wes Bentley was to co-star and, according to a 21 Mar 2001 DV article, Bentley's manager, Lee Daniels, was set to produce the film. However, a 10 May 2001 DV articles states that Bentley left the production for unspecified reasons and was replaced by Heath Ledger, while Daniels remained as producer.
       Monster's Ball marked the feature film debut of 15-year-old actor Coronji Calhoun. The cast also included famous rap music artist and producer Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. The presskit states that Louisiana State Penitentiary warden Burl Cain allowed for inmates to be hired as extras in the film. Screenwriters Rokos and Addica also had roles, as a prison warden and a guard, respectively.
       Although the script was set in a fictional Georgia state penitentiary, according to the presskit, the film was shot on location in the vicinity of New Orleans, Louisiana and on the grounds and in the cellblocks and death house of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, also known as "The Farm." The Academy-Award-winning documentary The Farm: Angola, USA (1998) and the Academy-Award-winning feature film Dead Man Walking (1995) were also shot at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Included in the end credits' "special thanks" list were the city of Kenner, the Kenner Fire Department and the Laplace Volunteer Fire Department; however, it is unknown whether these cities were additional filming locations.
       Monster's Ball received the National Board Review awards for Best Actor (Thornton) and Best Actress (Halle Berry), and was nominated by AFI for Movie of the Year. In addition to receiving an AFI Female Actor of the Year nomination, Berry was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama. According to a 6 Dec 2001 HR news item, the soundtrack for Monster's Ball was the first release of Lion Gates Films newly formed recording label, Lions Gate Records. Berry received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film, the first African-American actress to be so honored. The film was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay written directly for the screen. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   18 Jun 1998.   
Daily Variety   21 Mar 2001.   
Daily Variety   10 May 2001.   
Daily Variety   13 Nov 2001.   
Entertainment Weekly   24-31 Aug 2001   p. 86.
Entertainment Weekly   16 Nov 2001   pp. 72-74.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Mar 1999.   
Hollywood Reporter   8 Oct 1999.   
Hollywood Reporter   1-7 May 2001   p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter   29 May--4 Jun 2001   p. 72.
Hollywood Reporter   3-9 Jul 2001   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Dec 2001.   
Los Angeles Times   12 Aug 2001.   
New York Times   26 Dec 2001.   
Variety   19-25 Nov 2001.   

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