October 28, 2004 11:00 AM

Save for a scheduling conflict, perhaps rapper turned actress Queen Latifah could have nabbed the Academy Award for Best Actress for the lead in 2002’s Monster’s Ball.

Latifah says that the original cast was supposed to include her, Sean Penn and Robert De Niro, the Associated Press reports.

However, the independent film ended up starring Halle Berry, Heath Ledger and Billy Bob Thornton. Berry went on to win the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Leticia Musgrove, a woman whose imprisoned husband was executed and who then falls in love with one of the men (Thornton) involved in the execution.

Asked if she would have been willing to go to the lengths Berry did in her portrayal – the movie featured an explicit, nude love scene between Berry and Thornton – Latifah said anyone going into the role would have known what was required.

“You wouldn’t take that role without knowing what was there already,” she said. “It was the type of script that was written to be an Oscar winner, and that’s the only reason you would take it,” she added.

Latifah received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod in 2003 for her role in the musical Chicago. She is currently starring in the film Taxi, opposite and Jimmy Fallon, and she recently released a new record, The Dana Owens Album.

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