Late Maestro in Jazz and Piano, Donald Walbridge Shirley, popularly known in the 50s and 60s as Dr. Don Shirley, got his story told in Peter Farrelly’s 2018 controversial award-winning comedy-drama, Green Book. The film explores Shirley’s struggle with racism in the early 60s when he did his tour of the US Deep South for his concert and his relationship with his driver-turned-friend, Tony Lip. This article brings you a number of things you most probably didn’t know about the 2018 comedy, enjoy.
Green Book: 10 Things To Know About Peter Farrelly’s Comedy Drama
1. Mahershala Ali Did Not Actually Play The Piano In The Movie
Three pianists were involved in making the music of the film. They include American Jazz and classical pianist, Don Shirley, whose music was recreated in the film; Oscar award-winning actor, Mahershala Ali, who portrays Shirley; and Juilliard-trained composer and pianist Kris Bowers, the ghost pianist who did all the playing for Mahershala Ali. To make the music feel like a live play, the filmmakers opted for something better than mere lip or finger synchronization of the original LP and had Bowers recreate the maestro’s work. It took dedication and three months of practice for Ali to be able to perfect his choreography of Bowers’ play.
2. Vallelonga’s Father, Tony Lip, Inspired The Film
Screenwriter/producer, Nick Vallelonga, used the film as a medium of telling the story of his father (Nick Vallelonga, who was Dr. Don Shirley’s driver in his time) and his unlikely relationship with Don Shirley. According to Nick, telling his father’s story in a movie has been on his mind since he was a teenager but he did not commence writing the script till he lost his dad in 2013, the same year Shirley died. Vallelonga said he was uncomfortable with the early parts of the story but his desire to put his father’s transformation and how he [Nick] was raised out there made the film happen.
3. Some Scenes Were Cut Out Of The Film
Jim Burke, one of Green Book’s producers said some scenes had to be removed from the film for various reasons but a particular dinner scene set at a plantation house where Tony eats with his hands had to get cut because it just was not funny enough.
4. Viggo Mortensen Was Reluctant About Playing Tony Lip.
Producer Burke revealed that he had to convince Mortensen, who initially expressed reluctance about taking the role of Tony Lip because he thought he wasn’t big enough or of the same descent as the real-life character. The role would eventually earn him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
5. Green Book Screenwriter, Nick Vallelonga Got Entangled In A Scandal
Vallelonga’s past came back to haunt him during the season of awards when his sensitive,
seemingly anti-Muslim 2015 tweet re-emerged. In the since-deleted tweet, he said he saw Muslims in Jersey City cheering when the World Trade Centre collapsed. He has since deleted the tweet and apologized.
6. Peter Farrelly Also Came Up In A Controversy
The Green Book director, Peter Farrelly’s not-so-funny two-decade-old joke was also brought back by “The Cut”. Apparently, Farrelly liked to expose the genitals in a flash to his then colleagues, including Sony Pictures’ Tom Rothman and retired actress, Cameron Diaz. Admitting the story, embarrassed Farrelly stated that he thought he was being funny at the time and that he is deeply sorry for it.
7. Green Book Raised Some Race-Related Concerns.
Despite its many accolades and awards, some people expressed concerns about the film fueling the “white savior” stereotype as it has often been done. In response to this, director Farrelly said the film was more about two completely different people bonding and saving each other than one saving the other.
8. Green Book: A String of Lies?
Members of the Shirley family were also less than pleased that they were only contacted after the film had been developed. Shirley’s brother, Maurice, stated that Don never considered Tony a friend, he was only an employee of his. This contradicts a recorded interview where Don Shirley stated that he absolutely trusted Tony and that their relationship was always beyond that of an employee and an employer. Vallelonga mentioned that he did not contact the family because he had been instructed by Shirley, who approved his work, not to.
9. Green Book Delayed TV Series Of The Same Name.
The release of Farrelly’s Green Book made filmmakers Chandus Jackson and Stan Brooks
suspend the development of their budding series. The series that would be titled Green Book would explore Victor Hugo Green’s Green Book (also called The Negro Motorist Green Book) rather than Shirley and Lip’s story. When they realized Farrelly’s film had almost nothing to do with their story, Brooks and Jackson said they will be resuming their work.
10. Green Book Award Controversy
A number of people are of the opinion that Green Book is undeserving of the 91st Academy Best Pictures Award not just because of all the controversies that surrounded the movie- from Vallenlonga’s anti-Muslim tweet to the director’s scandal and also the race depiction criticism- but also because the likes of Black Panther, A Star is Born, and BlacKkKlansman was nominated in the same category.