Monster's Ball

1h 51m 2002

Brief Synopsis

Hank, an embittered prison guard, lives with his aging racist father, Buck, and his own twentysomething son, Sonny. Hank and Sonny work for the local prison where they are preparing the electric chair for a black inmate. After the man is executed, Hank falls in love with Leticia, the inmate's widow.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jan 18, 2002
Premiere Information
World premiere at AFI Fest, Los Angeles: 11 Nov 2001; Los Angeles and New York opening: 26 Dec 2001
Production Company
Lions Gate Films, Inc.
Distribution Company
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
United States
Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Angola--Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana, United States; New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Technical Specs

1h 51m


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.


Milo Addica


Milo Addica


Steve Apostolima

ADR loop group talent

Jimmy 'coach' Armstrong

Boom Operator

Asche And Spencer

Music Composition

Rick Ashe

Re-rec mixer

Brian Badie


Peter Bankins

Props Master

Brian Bankston

Special Effects prod Assistant

Edward Bankston

Special Effects Assistant

Kerry Barden


Bob Bates


Paul Beard

Company grip

Mark Bennett


Susie Blanchard

Set medic

Michael Blum

Props prod Assistant

Cheech Bradford

Insurance provided by

Tessa Brophy

Assistant prod Coordinator

Weldon Brown

ADR mixer

Zane Bruce

Foley artist

Jeanne Louise Bulliard

Publicist Photographer

Michael Burns

Executive Producer

Mary Burton

Ms. Berry's makeup

Pat Cabral

Foley Editor

Buddy Carr

Dolly grip

Donna Chance

Costume Supervisor

Bartou Chandler

2d 2d Assistant Director

W. "butch" Chaney


Carla Chao

Assistant makeup

Gilly Charbonnet

Key grip

Matt Chessé


Sam Chwat

Speech & dialect coach

Joseph L. Coble

Craft service

Nelson P. Conino


Lisa Cortes

Assistant to Mr. Daniels

Danny Cosmo

Utility stunt

Chris Cowart

Third man

Wendy Cutler

ADR loop group talent

Lee Daniels


G. "opey" Davis

Set prod Assistant

Rick Davis

Transportation co-Coordinator

Bob Demea

Mixed by

Sterfon Demings

Ms. Berry's hair

Al Dickerson

Completion bond provided by

Jake Donahoe

Post prod accountant

Colleen Duffy

Visual Effects prod

Bob Dylan


Lynne Eagan

Mr. Thornton's makeup

Joe Earle

Re-rec mixer

Christopher Eckstrom

Company grip

Mary Frances Elgin

Art Department Coordinator

Dana Embree

Addl set Costume

Lisle Engle

Sound Editing

David Erwin

On-set dresser

Caroline Eselin

Set Costume

Ryan Eustis

Office prod Assistant

Jerry Everett

Transportation capt

Frank Fleming

Costume Design

Daniel Fox

Set Dresser

Eddie Frierson

ADR loop group talent

Don Fullilove

ADR loop group talent

Sean Funnegan


Elisa Gabrella

ADR loop group talent

Matt Gaumer

2d Assistant Camera

Holly Goline

Assistant Props master

Jason Goodowens

Company grip

Allison Gordin

Makeup Artist

Caleb Guillote

Payroll clerk

Harry Harris

Stunt Coordinator

Michael Hatcher

Digital artist

Jeffrey Haupt

Addl Sound mixer

Davis Hawn

Van driver/Picture car wrangler

Kristin Hensley

Unit prod Assistant

Kristin Hensley

Lawrence Musgrove's artwork by

Billy Hershey


Win Hershy


Jeff Heusser

Digital compositing Supervisor

John Hiatt


Joel C. High

Music Supervisor

John Homesley

Assistant Editor

Billy Hopkins


Jerry Jackson

Transportation Coordinator

Jerry Jacobs

Steadicam op

Jeremy Jaklevick


Francis James

2nd unit, Director of Photographer

Francis James

2d unit, Director of Photographer

Meagan James

1st Assistant Editor

The Jayhawks


Trevor Jolly

Dial & ADR Editor

Richard Jordan

Sr. VP, of physical operations

Michael Kamper

Sound Designer

Alissa Miller Kantrow

Prod Coordinator

Daniel Katz

Assistant to Mr. Urman

Victor Keatley

Best boy Electrician

Monroe Kelly

Production Design

Brian Kingman

Insurance provided by

Eric Kopeloff

Co-prod/Line prod

Bill "duke" Kuhn


Rick Landry

Louisiana casting by

Rosemary Lara

Assistant to Mr. Paseornek

Leo Lauricella


Nikki Lawder

Bus & legal affairs Assistant

Paul T. Leblanc

24 frame video playback

Vince Leblanc


Betty Lee

Prod controller

Danny Lee

Bus & legal affairs Assistant

Michael Lerman

1st Assistant Director

Wayne Levin

Executive VP, bus affairs

Donna Lyn Levy

ADR loop group talent

Genevieve Leyh

Assistant scenic

Kelly Lofstrom

Bus & legal affairs Assistant

Diane Lucas

ADR rec

Ian Lynch

2nd unit, 1st Assistant Camera

Ian Lynch

2d unit, 1st Assistant Camera

Daniel Macarthur

Production Assistant

Mike Mahone

Prod intern

Larry P. Manke

Telecine colorist

Jennifer Mann

Foley Editor

Laurie May

Sr. VP, bus & legal affairs

David Ross Mccarty

Loc Manager

Jessica Siefert Mccarty

Loc Assistant

Caitlin Mckeena

ADR loop group by

Meagan Mclaughlin

Wardrobe prod Assistant

Mike Mclaughlin


Robert Melnick

VP, bus affairs

Curtis A. Miller

Manager of prod

Mark Miller

1st Assistant accountant

Dennis Monk


Glenn T. Morgan

Supervisor Sound Designer & Editor

Frank Moshier

Post prod Coordinator

Harry Muller

Col timing

Peter Kerr 'p.k.' Munson

1st Assistant Camera

Hugh Murphy

Digital Assistant

David Nami

Special Effects Coordinator

William A. Nami

Special Effects Assistant

Danny Nick


Jill Olson


Rob Ortiz

Unit Production Manager

Glen Palmisano

Special Effects prod Assistant

Paul Pape

ADR loop group talent

Chewie Pappas


Jeff Joon Park

Bus & legal affairs Assistant

Michael Paseornek

Executive Producer

John Patterson


Carl Pedregal

Post prod Supervisor

Eric Pierson

Set Dresser

Tonia Pound

Set prod Assistant

David J. Prestenback

Picture car prod Assistant

Jeff Pullman

Sound Mixer

Steve Ralston

Addl audio

Stuart Rankine

Props prod Assistant

Leonard Reynolds

Key set prod Assistant

Will Rokos


Will Rokos


James Roque Jr.

2d Assistant Director

Terence Rosemore

Set prod Assistant

Brian Ruberg

Foley mixer

David Ruth

Dial & ADR Editor

Joseph Sabella

Foley artist

Roberto Schaefer

Director of Photography

Kirstin Scott

Assistant to Mr. Thornton

Gerard Sellers

Loc scout

Al Sens


Severin Serafini

Costume stylist

Sherman Shelton

Set prod Assistant

Russell Slaughter


Donna Sloan

VP of prod, Lions Gate Entertainment

Joe Smith


Mike Smith


Suzanne Smith


Leonard Spears

Art Director

Giselle Spence


Barry Steadman

Set prod Assistant

Greg Steele

ADR mixer

Pat Stoltz

Addl audio

George 'chuck' Stringer

Const Coordinator

Robbie Stubblefield

Picture car prod Assistant

Cynthia Tanner

Office prod Assistant

Michael Taylor

Script Supervisor

Arnold Turner

ADR loop group talent

Joe Uddo

Camera PA

Marco Umana


Marco Umana

Assistant loc Manager

Stephanie Urcheck

Music Coordinator

Mark Urman

Executive Producer

Lynda Vincent


Sharon Vise

Prod accountant

Steve Walters

Charge scenic

Charlyn Ware

Manager of bus & legal affairs

Ralph Watson

Steadicam op

Kim Waugh

Addl audio

Drew Webster

Re-rec mixer

Don Wegner

Best boy grip

Jean Wells


Gayle Wesley

Addl audio

Wise Wolfe

Set prod Assistant

Joani Yarbrough

Mr. Thornton's hair

Steve Zeigler

Assistant chef

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jan 18, 2002
Premiere Information
World premiere at AFI Fest, Los Angeles: 11 Nov 2001; Los Angeles and New York opening: 26 Dec 2001
Production Company
Lions Gate Films, Inc.
Distribution Company
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
United States
Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Angola--Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana, United States; New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Technical Specs

1h 51m

Award Wins

Best Actress


Best Actress

Halle Berry

Award Nominations

Best Original Screenplay





The film's opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. According to a August 12, 2001 Los Angeles Times 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 June 1, 1998 Daily Variety article, Eric Cahan and Happy Walters were considered for producers, and a March 30, 1999 Hollywood Reporter article states that video and commercial director Sam Bayer was to make his feature-directing debut helming Monster's Ball. Subsequently, an October 8, 1999 Hollywood Reporter article reports that Vondie Curtis Hall would direct and Eric Cahan and Lawrence Bender would produce the film. A August 12, 2001 Los Angeles Times 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 March 21, 2001 Daily Variety article, Bentley's manager, Lee Daniels, was set to produce the film. However, a May 10, 2001 Daily Variety 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 December 6, 2001 Hollywood Reporter 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.

Miscellaneous Notes

Nominated for the 2001 award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen from the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

Nominated for two awards, including Movie of the Year and Actor of the Year - Female (Halle Berry), at the 2001 American Film Institute (AFI) Awards.

Voted one of the 10 best films of 2001 by the American Film Institute (AFI).

Winner of the 2001 Golden Satellite Award for Best Original Screenplay from the International Press Academy.

Winner of the 2001 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for Best Actress (Halle Berry).

Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Actress (Halle Berry) at the 2002 Berlin International Film Fetival.

Winner of two 2001 awards, including Best Actor (Billy Bob Thornton) and Best Actress (Halle Berry), from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

Expanded Release in United States February 8, 2002

Released in United States February 2002

Released in United States November 2001

Released in United States on Video June 11, 2002

Released in United States Winter December 26, 2001

Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (in competition) February 6-17, 2002.

Robert De Niro was previously attached to star.

Sam Bayer was previously attached to direct.

Sean Penn was previously attached to direct and star.

Vondie Curtis-Hall was previously attached to direct.

Wes Bentley was previously attached to play Sonny.

Film was previously in development at FilmFour and at Fine Line Features.

Screenwriting debut for Milo Addica and Will Rokos.

Began shooting May 15, 2001.

Completed shooting June 18, 2001.

Released in United States February 2002 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (in competition) February 6-17, 2002.)

Expanded Release in United States February 8, 2002

Released in United States on Video June 11, 2002

Released in United States November 2001 (Shown at AFI Fest 2001: The American Film Institute Los Angeles International Film Festival (Gala) November 1-11, 2001.)

Released in United States Winter December 26, 2001