Having a (Monster’s) Ball

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 25, 2002


NEW SARPY – One hot-ticket item currently in movie theaters is “The Monster’s Ball,” an independent film starring Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton and New Sarpy resident Coronji Calhoun.

In what was his first feature film, the local 11-year-old played Berry’s son in the 2001 film shoot, which took him to locations across south Louisiana from St. Rose to Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. The film was issued Dec. 26 in limited release and is now in general release.

The story, set in Georgia, centers on Thornton, who works as an executioner at the state prison, and his relationship with his father, who had the job before him, and his son, who is expected to take over the job someday.

In the course of the film, Thornton’s character falls in love with Leticia (Berry), the wife of a condemned inmate (played by Sean Combs).

“Some of it was kind of hard,” Coronji recalled. “It’s pretty hard work.”

However, there were certain benefits. He had his own trailer on location, where he would nap between takes. And, according to his mother, Theresa Calhoun, “Halle hugged and kissed him a lot!”

In fact, Coronji recently received a card from Berry, gushing with affection:

“Hi Coronji, guess who? It’s Halle! I have been thinking about you and wanted to let you know. I saw the film last night and YOU were wonderful! Thank you for making my job so easy. You’re so easy to know and to love. Take good care of yourself and I can’t wait to see you again soon! Say hi to your mom for me. Sending you lots of love, Halle.”

Coronji has always been an exceptional child, according to his mother, who had a 10-year performing career of her own, singing in the French Quarter at such places as the Famous Door Lounge and the House of Blues.

She heard about the talent search for the role from her sister’s husband, Terry Gullege, who knew of it through his church and thought his nephew, Coronji, would be perfect for the role.

“He knew what kind of kid he was,” Coronji’s mother said, and added her son bested 250 others for the role.

Coronji said he thoroughly enjoyed his movie-making experience, and felt relaxed with his fellow performers. “They’re pretty fun,” he said. “They like to play games.”

Sean “P-Diddy” Combs, who first hit the public eye as rap artist Puff Daddy, is Coronji’s father in the movie, and Coronji thought he was “pretty fun.” Thornton, he said, “did a good imitation of Elvis Presley” for him. “He was very nice,” the young actor said.

“It’s cool!” Coronji added with his gleeful smile. “I got two dads and two moms!”

Fourth-grade classmates at Ethel Schoeffner Elementary School were doubtful at first when he claimed to have the part, but once that was settled by magazine articles on the production, he became something of a school celebrity.

Even his 8-year-old sister, Diamond, was impressed and bragged on him. “I’m working on my autograph,” Coronji said with a grin.

On set, though, it was tough work. One scene, in which Coronji’s character is apparently struck by a car, was especially hard. “I had to lay there in the rain and act like I was dead.”

However, Coronji is hoping to keep his own career alive. Lee Daniels, his director, is looking for more roles for the young talent.

“I’m kind of into comedy,” Coronji added.

Definitely keep your eyes out for this young local resident in the future.

After all, he has already been kissed by Halle Berry.