“Green Book” finally is crossing $50 million tonight.
At a celebration for Green Book at Patsy’s Restaurant recently, friends and family of both jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley and his driver Tony Lip gathered to remember the real life characters of this crowd-pleasing road story. Daniel Craig hosted, and stuck around just long enough for the movie’s star, Viggo Mortensen, to arrive. As he left, a waiter requested a selfie with him, and the Bond actor obliged.
Viggo Mortensen is on every critic’s best actor list for his portrayal of the rough, mob-connected bouncer who landed a job managing a gay, black, elegant performer on a tour through America’s deep South when “colored only” was strictly enforced. Much of the movie is set in a car, with Tony literally eating his way cross country; he and Doc Shirley, superbly brought to life by Mahershala Ali, sparred on many a topic. Unlikely as it may seem, they become family to each other. While you can see it coming from the outset, that does not take away from the warm pleasures of the trip!
Tony LoBianco, Danny Strong, Brooke Adams, Carol Kane, Sean Stone and Danny Aiello were among the many actors attending, with waiters bringing out a salad Aiello favored for those at his table. Aiello knew Tony, and wanted everyone to know that he was tough, but angel-hearted, special. Peter Duchin lived above Carnegie Hall in apartments that many artists rented back in the day. He loves to tell the story of how residents went through an air duct to listen to the concerts onstage. Doc Shirley refused to go: “Isn’t it dirty?” “But it’s Bob Dylan.” “It’s too dirty,” the fastidious musician was said to have said. Duchin and many others praised the film’s characterizations.
Linda Cardellini plays Dolores, Tony’s wife. Tony’s letters to her provide an important motif, but also supply so much of the detail for the writing of this road trip. Nick Vallelonga, Tony Lip’s son and a producer on the film, said his original title was “Loveless Dolores,” so the film started as a son’s homage to his mother, and has come a long way. Cardellini, supplying lots of heat with Viggo, said, the Tony of the film had such an open heart, “I had to make home very important to him.” Cardellini also told me she is often asked what was it like to work with the exceedingly handsome Viggo. He had to transform in his gorgeous way—he gained 50 pounds—“so I never got to see him so handsome.” The same is true for her next movie, about Al Capone’s older days; shot in New Orleans, the film stars a similarly transformed Tom Hardy.
Director Pete Farrelly summed up the film’s message and relevance on a day when the president got on the air to justify his thuggish behavior to force the building of a wall. No matter how divisive everyone is, the movie shows what can happen “if you could just get the whole country in a car together.”
Outside Patsy’s, Radioman told anyone who would listen, this film will go all the way to Best Picture Oscar.