Vanessa Williams Passed on ‘Monster’s Ball’ Role Before Halle Berry: ‘I Dodged That Bullet’
Singer, actor, and dancer Vanessa Williams has experienced her share of highs and lows during her 30+ years in show business, and she still receives accolades for her achievements on and off camera.
After relaunching her career in the mid-80s following the Miss America scandal, she’s experienced successes in film, music, and television. Along the way, Williams passed on some opportunities including taking up a lead role that went to Halle Berry in 2002’s Monster’s Ball.
‘Monster’s Ball’ starred Halle Berry, Billie Bob Thornton
The 2002 film featured Thornton as a bigoted, retired corrections officer whose son was played by Heath Ledger. His character grieved the loss of Ledger’s Sonny after he died by suicide.
Thornton forms an unlikely bond with Berry’s Leticia Musgrove, the widow of an inmate whose execution he oversaw. After she loses her son, they connect over their grief and engage in a sexual relationship.
Berry won an Oscar for her performance and garnered acclaim from critics. However, the movie was also criticized for playing into racial stereotypes.
Why Vanessa Williams turned down the ‘Monster’s Ball’ role
During an interview with Fat Joe for his Instagram Live show, Williams was asked about the time she passed on the role of Leticia. Fat Joe pointed out Berry won an Academy Award and wondered if Williams regretted turning it down.
“Well, I thought to myself would I have won it if I’d done it,” she said. “You can do something and not get attention or get the wrong kind of attention. And I turned it down because I had my kids and I didn’t want to be bent over, naked, getting rammed in front of them.”
She explained she just had a baby the year before and didn’t feel the role was right for her at that point in her life. Further, Williams said she was having fun and on a roll after the other films she’d done. She acknowledged Berry’s historic win and said she thinks it was just something meant for Berry.
Williams noted that the team behind the movie was Harvey Weinstein’s and she wasn’t familiar with that crew but believed Berry had worked with them already. She just was not down. “I dodged that bullet,” she said, referring to Weinstein.
Williams shared she had no regrets and feels like there is still more to be done in her career.
Angela Bassett skipped the role too
Back in 2002, Angela Bassett told Newsweek that she was offered the part of Leticia but found it too demeaning. “I wasn’t going to be a prostitute on film,” she said. “I couldn’t do that because it’s such a stereotype about black women and sexuality.”
But Bassett expressed she wasn’t taking a swing at Berry and was proud of her. She cried when Berry won her Oscar. She explained her issue lied with how Hollywood portrayed women of color on screen.
“Film is forever,” Bassett said. “It’s about putting something out there you can be proud of 10 years later. I mean, Meryl Streep won Oscars without all that.”