‘Green Book’ won the best picture Oscar after facing controversies including an anti-Muslim tweet and genital flashing

Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen in ‘Green Book’ Universal
  • “Green Book” won the best picture Oscar on Sunday.
  • But controversy has surrounded the movie this entire awards season.
  • One of the writers, Nick Vallelonga, deleted his Twitter account last month after a controversial 2015 reply to Donald Trump resurfaced.
  • Director Peter Farrelly apologised last month for flashing his genitals in front of colleagues in 1998.
  • Relatives of Don Shirley, who Mahershala Ali plays in the movie, have raised concerns that “Green Book” misrepresents the real-life musician.

Universal’s “Green Book” won the best picture Oscar on Sunday after facing multiple controversies throughout this awards season.

“Green Book” tells the true story of Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian-American bouncer at clubs in New York City who takes a job driving African-American musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) during a tour through the Deep South in the 1960s. It’s directed by Peter Farrelly, who’s known for slapstick comedies like “Dumb and Dumber,” and written by Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie, and Tony’s son, Nick Vallelonga.

The movie also won best supporting actor for Ali and best original screenplay. Last month, it won three Golden Globes, including best comedy or musical, best supporting actor (Ali), and best screenplay, as well as the Producers Guild Award for best film.


All the winners of the 2019 Oscars

The recognition wasn’t without backlash, though.

Nick Vallelonga deleted his Twitter account last month after a 2015 tweet resurfaced, in which Vallelonga replied to a claim by Donald Trump that “thousands of people” were cheering in Jersey City, New Jersey after the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.Vallelonga apologised for the tweet after it resurfaced.

“100% correct. Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down. I saw it, as you did, possibly on local CBS news,” Vallelonga tweeted.

The claim was debunked by multiple outlets including The Washington Post, which wrote in 2015, “an extensive examination of news clips from that period turns up nothing,” and “neither can we find any examples of Trump previously talking about this.”

Farrelly also came under fire last month after The Cut resurfaced 1998 reports that Farrelly flashed his genitals in front of colleagues. Farrelly quickly apologised for his past behaviour.

“I was an idiot,” Farrelly told The Hollywood Reporter. “I did this decades ago and I thought I was being funny and the truth is I’m embarrassed and it makes me cringe now. I’m deeply sorry.”

Green Book Universal
‘Green Book’ Universal

Additionally, the contents of the movie itself have sparked criticism from a number of Shirley’s family members, who claim the movie misrepresents him. Both Vallelonga and Shirley died in 2013.

“They decided to make Don Shirley estranged from his black family, though that was not true,” Shirley’s great niece, Yvonne Shirley, told The Hollywood Reporter. “They decided to make him absurdly disconnected from black community and culture, though that was not true. They decided to depict him as having spent his formative years in Europe, though he spent them in the Deep South where he was born and raised. They decided to create a story of a white man’s redemption and self-realisation using an extraordinary black life and a history of black oppression in this country as their backdrop.”

Farrelly and Vallelonga have pushed back against the Shirley family’s concerns. In an October email provided to THR, Farrelly wrote to one of Shirley’s relatives, “At no time in the film do we state that Dr. Shirley was never close to his family; we just show that during that two-month period in his life, they weren’t particularly close, which makes sense.”

Vallelonga told THR that he interviewed both his father and Shirley in the 1980s for research. He claimed that Shirley requested that the script only focus on his and Vallelonga’s relationship, that he not interview anyone else, and that the movie not be released during his lifetime.