Monster's Ball (2002)

R | 111-112 mins | Drama | 18 January 2002

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
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Director:

Marc Forster

Producer:

Lee Daniels

Cinematographer:

Roberto Schaefer

Production Designer:

Monroe Kelly

Production Company:

Lions Gate Films, Inc.
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HISTORY

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 ... More Less

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. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
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.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Lee Daniels Entertainment Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-prod
Co-prod
Co-prod/Line prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit, dir of photog
2d unit, 1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Loader
Cam PA
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
24 frame video playback
Best boy elec
Elec
Elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
2nd unit, dir of photog
2nd unit, 1st asst cam
Grip and elec equipment provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Leadman
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Sr. VP, of physical operations
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
Lab consultant
Video dailies by
Telecine colorist
SET DECORATORS
On-set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Charge scenic
Carpenter
Carpenter
Asst scenic
Swing
Prop master
Asst prop master
Props prod asst
Props prod asst
Lawrence Musgrove's artwork by
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost stylist
Cost supv
Set cost
Addl set cost
Seamstress
Ward prod asst
MUSIC
Mus supv
Audio A/D conversion by
Mus coord
Mixed by
SOUND
Supv sd des & ed
Sd ed
Sd mixer
Addl sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dial & ADR ed
Dial & ADR ed
Digital asst
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
ADR mixer
ADR mixer
ADR rec
Addl audio
Addl audio
Addl audio
Addl audio
ADR loop group by
ADR loop group talent
ADR loop group talent
ADR loop group talent
ADR loop group talent
ADR loop group talent
ADR loop group talent
ADR loop group talent
ADR loop group talent
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff prod asst
Spec eff prod asst
Opticals by
Main title and Visual eff
Title des
Digital compositing supv
Digital artist
Visual eff prod
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Mr. Thornton's hair
Ms. Berry's hair
Makeup artist
Mr. Thornton's makeup
Ms. Berry's makeup
Asst makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Casting
Casting
Louisiana casting by
Unit prod mgr
Prod accountant
1st asst accountant
Payroll clerk
Asst loc mgr
Loc scout
Scr supv
Asst prod coord
Post prod supv
Post prod coord
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Asst to Mr. Daniels
Asst to Mr. Paseornek
Asst to Mr. Urman
Asst to Mr. Thornton
Key set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Unit prod asst
Prod intern
Transportation coord
Transportation co-coord
Transportation capt
Van driver/Picture car wrangler
Driver
Driver
Picture car prod asst
Picture car prod asst
Security
Asst chef
Chef/Driver
Third man
Craft service
Set medic
VP of prod, Lions Gate Entertainment
Prod controller
Post prod accountant
Mgr of prod
Prod asst
Exec VP, bus affairs
Sr. VP, bus & legal affairs
VP, bus affairs
Mgr of bus & legal affairs
Bus & legal affairs asst
Bus & legal affairs asst
Bus & legal affairs asst
Bus & legal affairs asst
Insurance provided by
Insurance provided by
Insurance provided by
Completion bond provided by
Completion bond provided by
Payroll services by
Speech & dialect coach
Speech & dialect coach
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Utility stunt
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timing
SOURCES
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
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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.
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COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 January 2002
Premiere Information:
World premiere at AFI Fest, Los Angeles: 11 November 2001
Los Angeles and New York opening: 26 December 2001
Production Date:
15 May--early July 2001
Copyright Claimant:
Lions Gate Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
7 January 2001
Copyright Number:
PA0001075797
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby; SDDS (Sony Digital Dynamic Sound); DTS Digital Sound in selected theatres
Color
color and processing by DeLuxe Laboratories
gauge
35mm
Duration(in mins):
111-112
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
38589
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

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 ... +


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. +

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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.