Lions Gate wants Combs to have ‘Ball’

Puffy to join Thornton, Ledger, Berry in Forster-helmed pic

Rapper and music mogul Sean Combs is in final negotiations to appear in Lions Gate Films’ “Monster’s Ball,” directed by Marc Forster. Thesp Peter Boyle has also signed on for the indie pic, which starts lensing next week.

Set in the contempo South, pic stars Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger and Halle Berry. Thornton and Ledger play father and son who work on an electric chair for a local prison. Boyle will play Thornton’s father.

Combs will play a small but significant role as Berry’s husband, a prisoner who is put to death in the chair. Thornton’s character, a racist, later falls in love with the widow.

Earlier this month Ledger inked a deal to replace Wes Bentley, who bowed out of the project for unspecified reasons. Sources close to the project say Bentley was exhausted from a hectic spring shooting schedule.

Ledger, who stars in Columbia Picture’s set-to-open “A Knight’s Tale,” recently worked with Bentley in upcoming Paramount/Miramax pic “Four Feathers.”

Bentley’s manager Lee Daniels is still producing the pic, which is lensing in Louisiana with part of the shoot taking place in the infamous Angola State prison.

Combs is repped by ICM and managed by Basic Entertainment. He will appear in the Jon Favreau-helmed mobster movie “Made” for Artisan, which hits theaters this July.

Boyle, repped by Innovative Artists, is a series regular on the CBS comedy “Everybody Loves Raymond” and stars in the upcoming Eddie Murphy pic “Pluto Nash” from Warner Bros. which bows next spring.