‘Green Book’: Real-Life Friends of Dr. Don Shirley Defend ‘Simply Wonderful’ Film

IndieWire | 1/9/2019 | Staff
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Hot off a trio of Golden Globe wins on Sunday night, the “Green Book” team continued on the awards season trail with a Wednesday afternoon stop at Manhattan restaurant Patsy’s for a lunch and Q&A hosted by actor Daniel Craig. Located less than half a block from Carnegie Hall, the former home of “Green Book” subject Dr. Donald Shirley (portrayed by Golden Globes winner Mahershala Ali), the event included unannounced special guests in the form of the jazz pianist and composer’s real-life friends and protegés.

The awards campaign for any biographical film benefits from the support of those who knew the subject, but for the increasingly embattled “Green Book,” it’s essential. The film, which follows Shirley and former bouncer Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Golden Globes nominee Viggo Mortensen) as they embark on a working road trip through the racially divided Deep South of the 1960s, broke out at as any early Oscars frontrunner after a stellar premiere (and People’s Choice Award win) at TIFF in September, but has been plagued by controversies in the intervening months.

Members - Shirley - Family - Film - Portrayal

Most notably, members of Shirley’s family hit back at the film for its portrayal of Shirley’s relationship with his relatives during the trip with Vallelonga. In December, Shirley’s nephew, Edwin Shirley III, and brother, Maurice Shirley, called out the film, telling Shadow and Act that the film was “rather jarring,” “very hurtful,” and “a symphony of lies.” Moreover, some family members claimed that Shirley and Vallelonga were never friends after their fateful trip.

Another shocking claim from the family: Shirley never even wanted to have a film made based on his life. Edwin said when “Green Book” screenwriter Nick Vallelonga, Tony’s son, approached Shirley three decades ago about making a movie, Shirley rebuffed him. However, at Wednesday’s event, Vallelonga told the packed house that he interviewed both his...
(Excerpt) Read more at: IndieWire
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