Cast & Crew
After years of prostituting herself along the highways of Florida, Aileen "Lee" Wuornos sits in the rain by the side of the freeway and contemplates ending her life with a gun she is holding. Deciding to spend her last five dollars on getting drunk, Aileen walks into a gay bar and orders a beer. When Selby Wall, a young lesbian with her arm in a cast, sits down next to Lee and offers to buy her a drink, Lee, horrified that Selby might think she is a lesbian, lashes out at the girl. However, after Selby assures Lee that she is lonely and just wants to talk to someone, the two share drinks until closing time when Lee's belligerent attitude prompts the bartender to throw them out. Selby then invites Lee home to spend the night. There Selby caresses the love-starved Lee's face, but the next morning, their tranquility is shattered when Donna Tentler, a friend of the Walls with whom Selby is staying, bursts into the room and demands to know what is going on. After Lee makes arrangements to meet Selby at a roller rink later that night and hurriedly leaves, Donna warns Selby never to bring "people like that" home again. Lee proceeds to a warehouse in which her possessions are stored and there meets her friend Tom, a kindly father figure who gives her a sandwich and a beer. Later, Lee prepares for her date with Selby by styling her hair in the bathroom of a gas station. At the roller rink, Selby tells Lee that she thinks it is "wild" that people actually pay to be with her and explains that her father sent her to Florida after she was accused of trying to kiss a girl back home in Ohio. Lee pulls the reluctant Selby onto the rink and the two glide along, staring romantically into each other's eyes. Later, their passionate kissing in the alley outside the rink is observed by Trevor, Donna's son. The next day, as Lee solicits along the highway, Donna informs Selby that Trevor reported seeing her in the alley. Donna has conveyed the information to Selby's father, who wants his daughter to return to Ohio immediately. After having sex with one john, Lee is picked up by Vincent Corey, who drives her into an empty field and demands that she perform oral sex on him in addition to the previously agreed-upon fornication. Impatient to keep her date with Selby, Lee refuses to perform both acts, after which Corey bashes her in the head, ties her hands to the car door and brutally rapes her with a pipe. When he pours alcohol on her wounds, Lee, fearing that he is about to kill her, flies into a frenzy, and wrenching her hands free, pulls her gun from her jacket and shoots him several times, then, howling in fury, pistol-whips him. After covering up the body, Lee wipes the blood from her face and drives off in Corey's car to see Selby. Lee's tapping on Selby's window awakens Donna, who summons her husband Charles to chase off the vagrant. Although Selby is angry at Lee for not keeping their date, she runs outside to warn her to leave and informs her that she has agreed to return home to Ohio. Promising to put Selby on a bus bound for home if she is unhappy, Lee hands her the cash she has made from soliciting and begs her to stay with her for one week. Selby accepts Lee's offer, and the two drive off in Corey's car. After checking into a roadside motel, Lee takes Selby to her hangout at The Last Resort, a biker bar in Port Orange, Florida. Later, as Lee drives Corey's car into the woods and wipes it clean of fingerprints, Selby returns to Donna's to collect her belongings. Donna then calls Selby's father, who berates the girl and demands that she come home. Thrusting the phone at Donna, Selby leaves and returns to the motel to tell Lee she has decided to stay with her. Overwhelmed with happiness, Lee promises to take care of Selby, but when Lee vows to "quit hooking," Selby worries about how she will support them. Lee naïvely replies that she will get a career-level job like veterinarian or "business person." However, when Lee tells one of her potential employers that she has no experience and no work history, the man laughs, prompting Lee to swear at him. When Lee recounts her humiliating rejection to Selby and admits that she has run out of money, Selby whines that she is hungry and worries over how Lee will provide for her. After failing to find any work at the employment office, Lee is about to throw out the employment section of the newspaper when she spots a story stating that Corey's body has been found. Upon returning to the motel, Lee is confronted by Selby, who is upset that Lee has curtailed their income by refusing to solicit men. Lee then confesses that she killed her last john after he raped and beat her. When Lee states that she was afraid the man was going to kill her, Selby apologizes and Lee shows her the murder story in the paper, then admits that she stopped soliciting because she was fearful of getting caught. Conceding that she has been hooking since she was thirteen years old, Lee resigns herself to a life of prostitution and returns to picking up johns along the road. One night, a john drives Lee into a deserted field, and when he asks her to call him "daddy," she shoots him. As Lee drives off in the dead man's car, she muses about a Ferris wheel from her childhood dubbed "the monster." The wheel magically lit up the night sky, but when she rode on it, she became nauseous and vomited. Upon returning to the hotel, Lee hands Selby a fistful of cash, then muses that in her life, the "harmless stuff always hurts the most¿[but] things so horrible don't bother her." After a night of passionate love making, Lee rents Selby an apartment and carries her over the threshold. Later, Lee is picked up by a nervous, stuttering john who admits that it is his "first time." When the man puts his wallet on the dashboard of his car and tells her to take what she wants, Lee masturbates him and he thanks her. Afterward, Lee continues soliciting, and upon returning home, cuts out a newspaper story about another murder and stuffs it into a box. The next morning, Selby, disgruntled about being left home alone while Lee is out working, drives off in one of the dead men's cars that Lee has driven home. Selby goes to a lesbian bar where she meets several women who tell her about a place called "Fun World." When Selby comes home, Lee chastises her for taking the car, prompting Selby to accuse Lee of "scaring off people," and insists that she take her to Fun World. There Selby sees the women from the bar and goes off with them. Later, Selby asks Lee to join her on the Ferris wheel. Remembering her sickening childhood experience, Lee smiles wanly and joins Selby. As Selby drives them home, Lee tells her that she turned to prostitution to support her younger brother and sister, who called her a "whore" when they found out. Mesmerized by Lee's story, Selby misses the turnoff, and when she makes a sharp turn, the car careens out of control and smashes into someone's front yard. When the owners of the house run out, Lee speeds off, then abandons the car. After Selby complains that she wants to drive in the car rather than walk, Lee informs her that the vehicle belongs to a dead man. As they hurriedly pack their clothes to flee, Lee shows Selby the box stuffed with clippings about the murders. Selby protests that Lee cannot go around killing people, to which Lee responds that she "is good with the Lord and people kill each other every day." To steal a car for their getaway, Lee picks up another john, but when Lee begins to talk about her rape and expresses her rage toward men, the older john becomes nervous. Pulling out her gun, Lee shoots him and upon examining his wallet, discovers that he was a retired policeman. At The Last Resort, Lee tells Tom goodbye, wailing that she had no control over what she did and never had a choice. As the couple who saw the crash provides the police sketch artists with a description of the women, Lee, urged by Selby to secure another car, walks the highway looking for a john. A kindly, elderly man stops and offers Lee a room and some clothes. Unnerved, Lee tries to get out of the car, but when he sees the gun slip out of her pocket, she forces the man to drive into the woods and shoots him, even though she feels profound anguish for her actions. When Lee returns home, Selby tells her about seeing their sketches on a television news broadcast. Realizing that they are in danger, Lee takes Selby to the bus station where Lee breaks down and begs her to come back one day. After giving Selby the last of her money and putting her on a bus headed for Ohio, a depressed Lee leans dejectedly over a bridge and throws the gun into the water below. At The Last Resort, Lee is met by Tom, who admonishes her to leave the bar. When Lee insists on waiting for Selby's call, an undercover policeman posing as a biker offers to give her change for the pay phone. While following the man to his car to get the change, Lee is apprehended by the police. Arrested on an old warrant, Lee is taken to prison where Selby phones her as the police record the conversation. Although Lee tries to discuss their relationship, Selby is only interested in manipulating her into taking sole responsibility for the murders. Although Lee realizes that Selby is setting her up, she vows her love for Selby then states "it was me and only me," as the police record their conversation. Lee's confession is played in court, where Selby takes the stand and testifies against her former lover. After the judge sentences Lee to death, she tells him to "rot in hell [for] sending a raped woman to death." As Lee recalls all the empty platitudes she has heard in her lifetime, the police lead her away.
Pruitt Taylor Vince
Marco St. John
T. Robert Pigott
Glenn R. Wilder
Christian Page Stokes
Honorable Gene R. Stephenson
Jim R. Coleman
Alan Abrams Esq.
Grayson Grant Austin
Nicholas James Bates
Jackie Lee Belcher
Greg S. Bernstein Esq.
Danny Joe Brown
Stephen R. Buff
Kevin J. Burroughs
Tammie N. Byers
R. H. Campbell
John G. Cannon
Michael 'doc' Cetrulo
Katherine S. Chang
Gary H. Clay
Dave "clem" Clempson
Kevin Patrick Cronin Jr.
Russell E. Curtis
Rick F. Daus Jr.
Tamara Stuparich De La Barra
Lamont Herbert Dozier
Michael J. Elding
Erik C. Emerson
David N. Enfinger
Michael D. Fitzgerald
Ortwin Freyermuth Esq.
"pineapple Dan" Furuya
Lisa Leogrande Ginsberg
Abby S. Ginsburg
Jeffrey M. Glueck
Joseph M. Hancock
Marvin J. Haven
Michael E. Hendrick
Donny H. Herran
David Lawrence Hlubek
Craig M. Hofstrand
Terrie L. Irwin
Jessica L. Jordan
Bret W. M. Kane
Ben J. Kanegson
Kevin Koloff Esq.
Fred Leopold Esq.
Stephen K. Long
Thomas E. Lowry
Peter P. Lucia Jr.
Edward T. Mcavoy
Jeff 'j. Mac' Mcdonald
Shawn R. Mcfall
Patrick K. Meng
Robert A. Monk
Daniel J. Mortenson
Matthew S. Naumann
Jack R. Nealy
James A. Nicosia
Before the title appears, the film opens with the written prologue: "Based on a true story." The film begins with images of Aileen "Lee" Wuornos as a little girl as Charlize Theron, as Wuornos, describes her dreams of being discovered and becoming a beautiful and rich movie star. The offscreen narration ends as she explains that one day the dreams "just stopped." The title Monster then appears onscreen. Wuornos' offscreen narration is heard intermittently throughout the film. Within the story, Wuornos is called "Lee," never Wuornos or Aileen.
At the end of the film before the police are shown leading Lee away after her trial, a title card appears explaining that Lee and Selby never saw each other again and that Lee spent twelve years on death row. A written list of organizations and people that the producers wished to thank appears at the end of the film. Among them are Wuornos' friend Dawn Botkins and the Seminole County Court. The following written disclaimer appears in the closing credits: "While this film is inspired by real events in the life of Aileen Wuornos, many characters are composites or inventions, and a number of incidents depicted in this film are fictional. Other than Aileen Wuornos, any similarity to any person, living or dead, is not intended and purely coincidental."
The film eliminates the early part of Wuornos' life. According to Wuornos' biography, Wuornos was born Aileen Pittman in Rochester, MI on February 29, 1956. Her teenaged parents separated months before she was born, and her father, Leo Pittman, subsequently committed suicide while serving a prison sentence for child molestation. Her mother Diane, overwhelmed by the responsibilities of single motherhood, abandoned Aileen and her older brother Keith, who were then adopted by their maternal grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos. Pregnant by the age of fourteen, Aileen was sent to a home for unwed mothers to deliver the baby. After their grandmother died in 1971, the children became wards of the court, and Aileen soon dropped out of school, becoming a teenage hooker to support herself as she drifted across the country. In 1976, after a series of arrests for violations such as drunk driving, disorderly contact, assault and disturbing the peace, Aileen hitchhiked to Florida, where she embarked on a life of crime, using the aliases of Lori Grody, Susan Blahovec and Cammie Marsh Green.
In June 1986, Wuornos met lesbian Tyria Moore, who in the film is called "Selby Wall," at a gay bar in Daytona. The two became lovers, and after their passion faded, they remained close friends and traveling companions. As noted in the biography, after a series of arrests for petty crimes, Wuornos was becoming increasingly belligerent, at times going out of her way to provoke confrontations. At bars and truck stops, she would thumb rides, supplementing her prostitute's income with theft. On December 13, 1989, the body of Wuornos' first victim, Richard Mallory, was found, shot three times in the chest with a .22 pistol. From that date to November 19, 1990, the bodies of five more men were found, all victims of gunshot wounds. Several of the bodies were found naked.
Although Wuornos was suspected of killing a seventh victim, his body was never found. Witnesses had seen two women in one of the victim's cars, and suspect sketches were drawn from their descriptions. Over the next few weeks, four callers identified the woman as Tyria Moore and Susan or Lee Blahovec. Their movements were traced through hotel receipts. Fingerprints, eventually identified as Wuornos', placed her at one of the murder scenes. Wuornos had been pawning her victims' possessions, and the police used the pawn receipts to track her to The Last Resort, a biker bar in Port Orange, FL, where she was arrested on outstanding warrants while police finished building the murder case against her. A day after Wuornos' arrest, Moore was found at her sister's home in Pennsylvania, where she agreed to help the police in return for immunity from prosecution.
In a series of telephone calls to the then-imprisoned Wuornos, who was unaware that the police were taping them, Moore begged Wuornos to confess to spare Moore from prosecution as an accomplice. On January 16, 1991, Wuornos summoned detectives and confessed to six killings, all allegedly performed in self-defense. Wuornos' trial for the murder of Richard Mallory began on January 13, 1992. Wuornos took the stand as the only defense witness, claiming Mallory had violently raped and beaten her. After ninety minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict and recommended the death sentence. Months later, an NBC television reporter discovered that Mallory had served ten years for violent rape in another state.
On January 31, 1992, Wuornos was sentenced to death. On March 31, 1992, Wuornos pleaded no contest to three other murders, ending her testimony by turning to the prosecuting attorney and saying, "I hope your wife and children get raped..." The judge in the case gave her three additional death sentences. In November 1992, she received her fifth death sentence and in February 1993, after pleading guilty to yet another murder, received her sixth death sentence. After spending twelve years on death row, Wuornos refused to continue appealing the sentences, and on October 9, 2002, was executed by lethal injection. From the execution chamber Wuornos purportedly stated, "...I'm sailing with the Rock and I'll be back like Independence Day with Jesus, June 6, like the movie, big mothership and all. I'll be back."
Although not depicted in the film, Wuornos was befriended by Arlene Pralle, a forty-four-year-old "born again" Christian, who saw Wuornos' picture in the newspaper and contacted her. Throughout 1991, Pralle appeared on talk shows and in tabloids to defend Wuornos. On November 22, 1991, Pralle and her husband legally adopted Wuornos, saying that "God had told her to."
According to a November 2003 Variety article, Patty Jenkins, who wrote and directed Monster, obtained the rights to letters Wuornos wrote to her close friend and confidant Botkins during the twelve years she spent on death row. A March 2003 Los Angeles Times news item added that Jenkins also corresponded with Wuornos. The Variety article noted that Jenkins resisted pressure to turn the project into a "slasher film," and instead wanted to humanize Wuornos by "focusing on the surrounding circumstances rather than the killings." In a December 2003 New York Times article, Jenkins said that she made the film to "tell the truth" [by finding] the space between the man-hating lesbian serial killer [trumpeted by the press stories] and the feminist hero." In a December interview in LA Weekly, Jenkins explained that she created the fictionalized character of Wuornos' friend, "Thomas" (portrayed by Bruce Dern in the film), to convey that Wuornos was more of a misanthrope than a man-hater.
Although evidence recounted in biographical sources strongly suggests that Wuornos' first victim raped and beat her, as dramatized in the film, the rest of Jenkins' account of the murders was fictionalized. In the LA Weekly interview, Jenkins stated that she imagined the murders as having their own narrative arc, saying, "I wanted the first and last murder to be like bookends. In the first murder, he's a murderer and she's the victim. By the last murder, she's a murderer and he's the victim."
A September 2003 "Variety Life Supplement" in Variety noted that Jenkins had to persuade the film's financiers to hire Charlize Theron over Kate Winslet and Heather Graham. Theron, who cut her hair, gained thirty pounds and wore a prosthetic overbite to play Wuornos, put her salary into the finishing costs of the film. Although a September 2002 Back Stage West Drama-Logue item stated that Lion's Gate had greenlighted the project, which was to begin shooting in Los Angeles in October 2002, Lion's Gate was not involved in the production. The film was shot in Daytona Beach, Port Orange, Winter Park, Kissimmee and Orlando, FL, the actual locations in which Wuornos committed her crimes. Monster marked the first feature-length film for Jenkins and Theron's first credit as a producer.
Several other works have been based on the life of Wuornos. Two documentaries directed by Nick Broomfield focused on Wournos' life: the 1992 film Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, in which Broomfield interviewed Pralle and Wuornos, and the 2004 film Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, co-directed by Joan Churchill, in which Broomfield interviewed Wuornos and Botkins. A teledrama, Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story, starring Jean Smart and directed by Peter Levin, was broadcast on November 17, 1992 on CBS. According to a November 16 1992 Variety news item, Moore and writer Jackelyn Giroux filed a motion to stop the broadcast on the grounds that the producers never obtained permission from the principals depicted in the film. An opera entitled Wuornos, written by Carla Lucero, opened in San Francisco on June 22, 2001. In 2002, Sue Russell published the book Lethal Intent, dealing with Wuornos' life.
Monster was selected as one of AFI's top ten films of the year and Theron won the 2003 Award for Best Breakthrough Actress presented by the National Board of Review. Theron also won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama, the Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, an Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead and an Academy Award for Best Actress. Jenkins won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, and the film also received a nomination for Best First Screenplay from the Independent Spirit Awards.
Winner of the 2004 Artios Award for Feature Film - Independent by the Casting Society of America (CSA).
Voted one of the 10 best films of 2003 by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Winner of the 2003 award for Best Actress (Charlize Theron) from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.
Winner of the 2003 award for Best Actress (Charlize Theron) from the National Society of Film Critics (NSFC).
Winner of the 2003 Award for Best Breakthrough Actress (Charlize Theron) by the National Board of Review.
Winner of the 2003 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for Best Actress (Charlize Theron).
Released in United States Winter December 24, 2003
Released in United States December 26, 2003
Expanded Release in United States January 9, 2004
Released in United States on Video June 1, 2004
Released in United States November 2003
Released in United States February 2004
Shown at Berlin International Film Festival February 5-15, 2004.
Aileen Wuornos was executed for her crimes in Florida on October 9, 2002.
Released in United States Winter December 24, 2003
Released in United States December 26, 2003 (Los Angeles and San Francisco)
Expanded Release in United States January 9, 2004
Released in United States on Video June 1, 2004
Released in United States November 2003 (Shown at AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (Gala) November 6-16, 2003.)
Released in United States February 2004 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival February 5-15, 2004.)