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INTEROFFICE MEMORANDUM

By Donald Cunningham,2014-08-29 16:59
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INTEROFFICE MEMORANDUM

    LIONS GATE FILMS

    Presents

    Directed by

    Marc Forster

    Starring

    Billy Bob Thornton

    Halle Berry

    Heath Ledger

    Peter Boyle

    Sean Combs

    Mos Def

    Coronji Calhoun

    Distribution Contact: East Coast Agency: West Coast Agency: James Ferrera/Lauren Silk-East Coast Jeremy Walker & Assoc. Karen Fried thMelissa Holloway-West Coast 171 W. 80 St. Rogers & Cowan Lions Gate Films Suite 1 1888 Century Park East th4553 Glencoe Ave., Suite 200 New York, NY 10024 5 Floor Marina del Rey, CA 90292 T: (212) 595-6161 Los Angeles, CA 90067 T: (310) 314-2000 F: (212) 595-5875 T: (310) 201-8800 F: (310) 396-6041 F: (310) 788-6631 Rating: R Running Time: 108 min. 1OS ANGELES: 4553 Glencoe Ave., Suite 200 Marina del Rey, CA 90292 • 310-314-2000• fax: 310-396-6041 TORONTO: 2 Bloor St. West, Suite 1901, Toronto, Ont. M4W-3E4, Canada • 416-944-0104 • fax: 416-944-2212 MONTREAL: 3600 Blvd. Thimens, Montreal, Que. H4R-1V6, Canada • 514-336-9696 • fax: 514-336-6606

    MONSTERS BALL

    CAST

    Hank Grotowski .................................................................................. Billy Bob Thornton Leticia Musgrove............................................................................................. Halle Berry Buck Grotowski .............................................................................................. Peter Boyle Sonny Grotowski.......................................................................................... Heath Ledger Lawrence Musgrove ....................................................................................... Sean Combs Ryrus Cooper ....................................................................................................... Mos Def Tyrell Musgrove ....................................................................................... Coronji Calhoun Lucille ....................................................................................................... Taylor Simpson Betty ...................................................................................................... Gabrielle Witcher Vera .............................................................................................................. Amber Rules

    Willie Cooper ....................................................................................... Charles Cowan, Jr. Darryl Cooper .......................................................................................... Taylor Lagrange Dappa Smith................................................................................................ Anthony Bean Georgia Ann Paynes .................................................................................... Francine Segal Harvey Shoonmaker .................................................................................. John Mcconnell Phil Huggins ....................................................................................... Marcus Lyle Brown Tommy Roulaine ............................................................................................ Milo Addica Booter ............................................................................................................. Leah Loftin

    Tyrell Musgrove ....................................................................................... Coronji Calhoun Co #1 ................................................................................................................. Larry Lee

     Co #2 .............................................................................................................. Troy Poret

    Co #3 ............................................................................................................... Paul Smith

    Correction Officer ........................................................................................ Marshall Cain Warden Velasco ............................................................................................... Will Rokos Billy ........................................................................................ Anthony Michael Frederick Minister ..........................................................................................................John Wilmot

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    Clement ..................................................................................................... Dennis Clement Nurse ....................................................................................................... Stephanie Claire Hospital Guard ............................................................................................... Jamie Haven Detective ........................................................................................... Ritchie Montgomery Maggie Cooper ............................................................................................. Clara Daniels Mrs. Guillermo .............................................................................................. Carol Sutton Deputy Jones ........................................................................................... Bernard Johnson

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    FILMMAKERS

    Directed by .................................................................................................... Marc Forster Written by ................................................................................... Milo Addica, Will Rokos Producer ......................................................................................................... Lee Daniels Co-Producer ................................................................................................. Eric Kopeloff Executive Producers ............................... Mark Urman, Michael Burns, Michael Paseornek

    Directory of Photography ....................................................................... Roberto Schaefer Production Designer ..................................................................................... Monroe Kelly Editor ............................................................................................................. Matt Chesse

    Art Director .............................................................................................. Leonard Spears Casting ......................................................................................................... Kerry Barden Costume Designer ....................................................................................... Frank Fleming

    (REMAINING CREDITS BEGIN ON PAGE 26)

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    MONSTER’S BALL

“Monster‟s Ball” is the rare film about intersecting lives in which the characters transform one

    another in such a profound way that, while the fireworks may seem to go off just below the surface, their explosions echo in our hearts and minds long after the last reel. Perhaps this is because the film‟s director, Marc Forster, has with “Monster‟s Ball” taken an unflinching, clear-eyed approach to the heavy legacies of family and race, as well as to the redemptive yet ethereal power of love. The truths Forster confronts in “Monster‟s Ball” can be at once brutal and sublime, shocking and healing.

    The first half of the film introduces us to a family of men whose three generations of work has rooted them squarely in the foundation of the contemporary Southern social landscape. They are officers for the Department of Corrections, men who put into action the ultimate will of the state. Working with prisoners in a rural Georgia prison, their emotions are as tightly locked down as the cells on Death Row as they ready the condemned for execution. Billy Bob Thornton plays Hank Grotowski, who heads the death team; his aging father Buck (Peter Boyle) is home-bound but his racism is as virulent as ever. However, Hank‟s son Sonny (Heath Ledger), whose work on the death team has just begun, may be immune to the hate that seems to have been passed from father to son.

    As Hank and Sonny and the rest of the death team prepare for the execution of Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs), we learn that while Hank shows no outward sympathy for the condemned man, he does have a great reverence for the process of his last hours. When Sonny loses control and breaks away from Musgrove‟s “last walk,” the consequences are severe. Hank spews his rage in a confrontation with Sonny in the prison bathroom, his violence barely contained by other members of the team. But the next morning at the Grotowski home Hank‟s anger has

    not been sated. It boils over once again and Sonny pulls a gun on his father in self-defense. When Hanks tells his only child “I‟ve always hated you,” Sonny turns the gun on himself.

    Buck and Hank bury Sonny in the back yard, next to the grave of Buck‟s wife, also a suicide, and Hank‟s wife. Hank can‟t get the casket in the ground fast enough. But Hank doesn‟t return to his life as it was. He padlocks Sonny‟s room, burns his uniform and quits his job at the prison.

    When Lawrence Musgrove is executed, he leaves behind a wife, Leticia (Halle Berry) and a son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun). Before he is put to death we are given a glimpse of this family‟s last visit. Leticia has been visiting her husband on death row for eleven years, and she is tired.

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    Tyrell has inherited his father‟s talent as a sketch artist. That night, waiting for Musgrove‟s last phone call, Leticia wails on her obese son when she discovers his secret stash of chocolate bars. She sees the best of her husband in their son, and the worst. Musgrove never calls. Suddenly in need of work, Leticia gets a job waiting on the graveyard shift at a diner, where Hank often stops in for coffee and chocolate ice cream. Late one night, during a torrential rainstorm, Hank comes to Leticia‟s rescue when he finds her and her son in desperate need of help at the side of the road.

     “Why did you help me?” she asks Hank after he gives her a ride home from the diner some time later. She asks him inside her house and after some drinks Leticia exposes her grief and great need, and they make ferocious love. The next morning, when Hank sees a picture of Lawrence Musgrove, a man he helped put to death, he becomes violently ill. But he does not tell Leticia the reason.

    As their relationship develops, Hank realizes that he needs to help Leticia as much as she needs his help. He gives her Sonny‟s car, and when he buys a gas station as a new way to earn a living, he names it for her. But when Leticia tries to bring Hank a present, she gets into an ugly confrontation with Buck that sears her with the family‟s indelible legacy of hate.

    Hank makes the decision to ship his father to a nursing home. “You must love him very much,” the woman at the home says as Hank admits his father. “No,” he replies, “I don‟t. But he‟s my

    father, so there you go.”

    When Leticia is evicted from her home, Hank is once again there to rescue her. He has given the inside of his house a fresh coat of paint. Once there, he offers Leticia a chance to lock away the belongings from her past life in the padlocked attic room once occupied by Sonny. When Leticia is alone in that room she discovers two sketches made by her late husband the night that he was put to death: one sketch is of Sonny, one is of Hank. She is horrified by her discovery. But when Hank returns a few minutes later, he tells Leticia that she looks beautiful. He thinks that they will be OK. Leticia is silent, but she smiles. Maybe they will be OK. But can these two

    people, drawn together by need, passion, circumstance and violence, wrestle their future from the hungry grasp of the past?

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    DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

    Reading “Monster‟s Ball” for the first time I had the immediate impression that I was dealing with a story of interrupted silences that this would be a film that did not rely on a lot of exposition or dialog to establish its characters. The silences I am talking about come from the characters‟ interior life and personal conflicts; the drama would arise from the times when their own perception of their stance in the world is exposed. Leticia knows that she is trapped in a prison as much as her husband is, and her violence towards her child arises from self-hatred that comes when she recognizes that she cannot change their situation. Hank, too, sees himself trapped in the shadow of his father and a legacy of hate but it is not until the death of his son exposes the

    legacy that he can change his perspective, that he can change his destiny.

I approached the material which was heavy on incidents but not on dialog by focusing on how

    characters reacted to what was going on around them. This means that I encouraged the actors to present their characters in all their desperate humanity, which I hoped would make labels like “sympathetic” or “unsympathetic” seem entirely beside the point. Most of the characters in “Monster‟s Ball” have those vulnerable, vicious, misunderstood and unforgiving traits that all flower from the same root, the absolute need to be loved. Hank and Leticia must experience great loss in order to realize this. For Hank, it is not a sudden moment of understanding: he recognizes his need to be loved when he ultimately recognizes his recurring need to care for someone after years of hard work to not care for people, placing more importance on ritual. For

    Leticia, the moment she recognizes her need to be loved comes instantaneously, when Hank exposes his emotions late at night, in a parked car. Hank is by nature reticent, prone to internalize everything; Leticia, after years straining to hold everything together, is easily moved to emotional outburst.

My hope with “Monster‟s Ball” was to make a film that lead with emotions rather than action;

    I was looking for uncompromising emotional honesty from my actors in hopes that we could tell a story of loss and redemption with the same resonance achieved by some of the great films of the 70s. Yet I was also after a contemporary aesthetic: to render a sense of isolation in a world crowded with complexity, full of characters struggling to transcend the compromises of their condition.

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    ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

    Since the script was completed in early 1995, “Monster‟s Ball” has been a magnet for top Hollywood actors and filmmakers. The project almost “happened” at one studio or another, with

    this star and that director, with one producer or another, maybe half a dozen times before the film was finally financed by Lions Gate Films in the spring of 2001.

    “The project was evergreen,” observes producer Lee Daniels. “Like many people I became obsessed with the script like no other. It is a rare script that depicts the immediacy of life with raw, rugged and layered characters, and actors live for that.”

    One of those actors is Halle Berry. “I was attracted to „Monster‟s Ball‟ the first minute I read the script,” she says. “It‟s a wonderful part. The characters all have lots of levels, and they present a side of human nature that has always fascinated me.”

    Berry joined the cast of “Monster‟s Ball” relatively late in the game, and fought hard to land the

    part. A star of many mainstream blockbusters who recently was honored with numerous awards and critical praise for her portrayal of screen legend Dorothy Dandridge in an HBO movie of the same name, Berry epitomizes Hollywood glamour. But there was something about the role of Leticia that drove Berry to pursue it relentlessly and, like the other cast members, agree to work for a fraction of her normal salary.

    “I felt a deep connection to Leticia‟s spirit and her heart,” says Berry. “I understand what it‟s like to struggle and be behind the eight ball and want to achieve and be successful and make something good out of your life. And I totally understand being a black woman, especially in the industry that I‟ve chosen to be in. I can understand the struggle of wanting something so badly but not really knowing how to get where you‟re trying to go, and she‟s filled with a lot of pain, as I am. For me, the role was being able to tap into that pain in order to bring the character to life.

     “In fact, every part in the movie, no matter how big or how small, is wonderful,” Berry says.

    These plum roles that so many actors pursued with the same passion as Berry were, it turns out, written by two actors who were living in Los Angeles and trying to get work. Will Rokos and Milo Addica partnered to write “Monster‟s Ball” with the idea that they could act in the film. They holed up in a Santa Monica apartment and wrote quickly, initially envisioning a micro-

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    budget production in which they would star. They shared experience growing up in violent households, and decided that their film would be about how the cycle of violence can be broken. But the script became more than a personal project for Rokos and Addica when Hollywood took notice. Top actors such as Robert DeNiro and Tommy Lee Jones and such directors as Sean Penn and Oliver Stone were at various times over the last few years attached to the film, but with these stars came the need for large salaries. And large salaries made budgets balloon. And ballooning budgets made executives uneasy, causing them to demands that Rokos and Addica soften certain elements of the screenplay. These were demands that the writers were unwilling to meet, and as a result “Monster‟s Ball” shifted from one home to the next, stewing in its own unique circle of development purgatory.

    Ultimately, “Monster‟s Ball” would be directed by American independent director and Swiss native Marc Forster, a graduate of NYU Film School whose previous feature, “Everything Put

    Together,” had its world premiere at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. “Monsters Ball” was photographed in the late spring and summer of 2001 in and around New Orleans and at the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola (also know as “The Farm”). The film is

    produced by Lee Daniels, with Michael Burns, Michael Paseornek and Mark Urman serving as executive producers.

     “I begged Milo and Will to give me three months to put the movie together,” says producer Daniels. A previous producer‟s option had just expired, and Daniels, who manages the career of Wes Bentley, felt the role of Sonny would be perfect for his client. Bentley quickly became attached.

    Daniels went looking for a director, and along with Rokos and Addica, screened Forster‟s

    Sundance film “Everything Put Together” in New York in August of 2000.

    Says Daniels, “When I saw „Everything Put Together‟ I thought, „this guy understands tough, personal material and knows how to work with actors.‟ The movie totally got under my skin.”

    “Everything Put Together” stars Radha Mitchell and Justin Lewis as a young, well-off, loving,

    suburban couple eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. Angie's friends are also pregnant and together their worlds revolve around babies, husbands and the rituals of family life. When an unexpected tragedy befalls Angie and Russ, the community that they were once integrally involved in begins to disappear. Forster creates a terrifying yet perfectly empathetic portrait of an alienated woman adrift in a hostile, suffocating suburban environment.

    Says Forster, “I am very proud of „Everything Put Together.‟ The movie, and the fact that it got into Sundance where everyone saw it, made my career. It was an unusually strong year at Sundance, with movies like „Girlfight‟ and „Chuck & Buck‟ and „You Can Count on Me,‟ and „Everything Put Together‟ went a little bit under the radar. Frankly, the film‟s subject matter was

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simply too dark.” “Everything Put Together” would ultimately earn Forster the Movado

    “Someone to Watch” award at the 2001 IFP Spirit Awards.

    In the meantime, executive producer Mark Urman, who at the time was co-president of Lions Gate, had seen Forster‟s earlier work at Sundance. Forster and Urman began talking about a separate project when he heard about “Monster‟s Ball.” He asked to see the script and, he says, “I flipped for it. I knew that this was the kind of film that would be tough to get made, but needed to get made.”

    After going through years of coming thisclose, writers Addica and Rokos at this point retained all

    rights to the project as well as a thoroughly skeptical attitude. The key to getting the rights to their script, explains Urman, “was that we never asked them to change any plot after every other potential financier had insisted on changes.” The writers were also able to fulfill their original goal with “Monster‟s Ball” when they were promised small roles in the film. Rokos plays the prison warden; Addica plays a guard.

    Lions Gate committed to finance the film once Billy Bob Thornton, the only native Southerner in the cast, committed to the role of Hank for a fraction of his regular salary. With financing secure, casting began in earnest for the key role of Leticia, and competition was fierce. “I was in an awkward position as a relatively new filmmaker,” admits Forster. “It seemed like every great black actress wanted the part, and it was very, very tough to make a choice. Because she is so beautiful and glamorous, frankly for a long time Halle was the underdog. But she kept fighting for the part, and she was relentless in her pursuit. She was also, at the end of the day, the best actor for the role.”

    In an interview completed about half way through production, Forster observed this about Berry‟s approach to her portrayal of Leticia: “It reminds me of a child who has been hurt when she was very little and has never been able to express her pain, and I feel like somehow that in her whole portrayal of the character she brings out these wounds, and ultimately she realizes that these wounds can be healed through love.”

    About a week before shooting, Sean Combs, the hip-hop artist and producer, auditioned for and won the role of the condemned man, Lawrence Musgrove. Another popular rap artist, Mos Def, was cast as Ryrus Cooper, the Grotowski‟s neighbor. A local New Orleans boy, Coronji Calhoun, filled the pivotal role of Leticia‟s son, Tyrell. Calhoun, who has never acted before, won the role in an open casting call.

    “Monster‟s Ball” was shot over five hot, humid weeks in May and June on the outskirts and in the

    neighborhoods of New Orleans. The production moved two hours away, to the fields, cellblocks and death house of Louisiana‟s State Penitentiary at Angola for one week to shoot prison interiors and exteriors. The location was a trying experience for the cast and crew; the tremendous heat

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