The fall season is upon us, and in between all of the blockbuster movies the awards season is looming large. It’s still a little early in the year to get any sort of handle on what this awards season is going to be like, but trailers for some possible contenders have started to drop. Universal Pictures released a trailer for their upcoming movie Green Book, and Entertainment Weekly got a chance to speak to lead actors Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.
“We’re an unusual combination,” Mortensen tells EW of the characters. “The odds are that I’m not going to keep the job for the whole trip, because we don’t hit it off right off the bat at all.”
Based on a true story, Green Book follows the story of Tony Vallelonga (Mortensen) as he is hired to drive a Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a gifted pianist, from Manhattan to the deep south for performances in 1962. They must rely on a “green book” that shows establishments where Shirley is allowed to perform.
As for Ali, who exploded onto the mainstream in 2016 with his Oscar-winning performance in Moonlight, this was one of the scripts he read and kept coming back to.
“Green Book was a project that I kept thinking about after I had read it,” Ali says. “If you look at these two archetypes [in films], it’s so often the black guy is serving as some sort of grounding force and reality check who’s coming from a low-income or working class environment, for the wealthier, more affluent character… I really responded to the fact that it was flipped on its head the way that it was, and the fact that it was based on a real relationship.”
Ali says that his character, Don Shirley, was interesting because of the inner conflict between him. The white community will only accept him when he’s on stage, but his training and life has left him with very little knowledge of the black community as well.
“As a result, he feels very much alone,” Ali explains. “Those are the most interesting characters to me, the ones who have to make a way for themselves, that can only connect to portions of certain communities.”
Like most movies based on friendships, it’s all going to come down to the chemistry between the two lead characters. Judging by the footage thus far and considering how gifted our leads are, this is probably going to be one to check out.
Summary: A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.
Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly, stars Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D. Marinov, and P.J. Byrne. It will be released on November 21st.