One of the most pivotal scenes in Monster’s Ball was a lot more real than anyone may have realized.
The dark 2001 drama starred Billy Bob Thornton as a southern death row prison guard named Hank and the late Heath Ledger as his sensitive son and fellow guard Sonny. In one crucial scene in the movie, Sonny breaks down as he’s supposed to be escorting a prisoner to his execution; later, Hank angrily confronts his son, calling him weak.
Things get physical between the two, and when Thornton stopped by PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing to reminisce on his past performances, he revealed some intel on that intense moment.
“That scene right there, I was really hitting Heath,” Thornton says. “And he asked me to. I said, ‘Now listen, I’m a little more of a veteran than you. When I was a young actor I used to ask people to hit me and it hurts.’ I said, ‘I’ll do it if you want me to,’ and he said, ‘Please.’ He said he needed it. And I was hitting him pretty hard.”
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Monster’s Ball was an incredibly tragic story dealing with race and abuse. And that’s why Thornton, who is currently starring in season 3 of Amazon Prime Video’s Goliath, reveals he wasn’t a Method actor while off set filming his scenes.
“I did not stay in character all the time,” the actor says. “That would have been really hard on a person.”
Watch more in the Couch Surfing clip above.