An exclusive first look at the shocking romance 'Monster's Ball'

Monster’s Ball costars Billy Bob Thornton and Heath Ledger weren’t seeking validation that their father-son fight scene was sufficiently authentic. But they got it from an employee of Louisiana’s Angola prison, where they shot the brutal tussle involving slapping, shoving, and a punch to Ledger’s mouth. ”When we were filming, the warden almost had to step in because he thought it was real,” Thornton recalls in his trailer a few weeks later. ”Heath’s a tough kid.”

Similar fortitude might be required of the audience. The Georgia-set drama (opening Dec. 26) — about a racist corrections officer (Thornton) who finds himself falling for the widow (Halle Berry) of one of his former inmates (hip-hop mogul Sean Combs) — features multiple deaths, not to mention a surfeit of psychic wounds. ”Everybody who dies, dies in the first half of the movie,” says director Marc Forster, whose debut feature, the dark drama Everything Put Together, premiered at Sundance in 2000. ”So if you can make it through that, the second half is the love story.”

And how. In order to avoid an NC-17 rating, Forster was forced to trim about a minute from a raw sex scene between Berry and Thornton (which will still clock in at a heavy-breathing 3 1/2 minutes). ”Her husband’s been on death row for 11 years, so she hasn’t had sex,” Berry explains of her character, Leticia. ”He’s been having these 15-minute episodes with this prostitute, so his love life is nothing special. So when these two people come together, it’s just animal.” Berry, who famously flashed in last summer’s Swordfish but had never filmed a love scene before, made sure she wasn’t the only one to show some skin. ”I said, ‘Okay, hold up. If my butt’s going to be out…’ And Billy Bob was willing for his to be. I felt good because he got as naked as I got.”

Monster's Ball
  • Movie
  • 111 minutes