Can you imagine the director of "Two silly fools" (1994) taking the stage at the Dolby theater in Los Angeles to collect the Oscar for best film? Although unlikely, it is possible. «Green Book», the author's new film "Something's up with Mary" (1998), comes from winning the Golden Globe for best comedy and adds five Oscar nominations: best film, script, actor, supporting actor and director. It is the first time that Peter Farrelly is presented alone with a film, after the recent passing of the son of his brother Bobby, his film tandem, which has forced him to direct alone.
«Green Book» tells a story of friendship that transcends the barriers of racism and social class that reigned in the US in the early 60s. Based on real events, tells the story of Frank Anthony Vallelonga, better known as Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a hustler who works as a disco doorman in the Bronx. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a black pianist who is touring with his concerts, hires him as a driver to go to the deepest south of the country. Your guide is the Green Book, which will keep you safe from the problem of segregation in those areas. Between them will develop an unprecedented friendship.
-You and your brother are known for making pure comedies. "Green Book", despite having touches of humor, is a drama that reveals the problems of racism in the southern United States. Why did you decide to direct it?
-It is not something I had planned, but I was offered the opportunity and decided to throw myself into the pool.
– Was the election of Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali important for the leading duo?
– In my head there were not two better actors. Besides, he had been behind Viggo for years and his answer was always that he could not.
-Remember what movies you rejected?
-I asked him if he wanted to be with me in "Carta blanca" (2011) and in two others. I love Viggo, he's an actor like few others. For this particular one, I did not want him to escape and I wrote him a very long letter. I begged him to please read 30 pages of the script. He answered me after three days saying that he loved it, but he was not sure if it was a role for him. I replied that if he had made "Promises of the East" (2007) he could do this. I told him that he had lived in New York, that he was familiar with the type of characters that appear in the film. He asked me to show him a picture of the character he was going to interpret and he said he did not look like anything, but I argued that it did not matter because nobody, apart from his family, knew him. In the end when he agreed to do so he decided to gain weight to look as much as possible.
-How many kilos won?
– With Ali was it simpler?
-Of course. Any actor wants to be with Viggo. The funny thing is that they had already been talking about the desire they had to work together, so everything went smoothly.
-The title refers to "The Green Book of Black Motorcyclists", a guide for African-Americans to travel safely in their own country. Why did you choose to reflect it in the title?
-When I started writing the script I had never heard of the Green Book; in fact, eight out of ten black friends that I have did not know him either. However, his parents and grandparents did know about him. The original title of the story was "Letters of love for Dolores", but I thought that was going to make part of the male audience not to see the movie (laughs).
-The humor of "Two silly fools" and "Something happens with Mary" has sometimes been called offensive or politically incorrect. Looking back, how do you see those movies now?
-I'm very pleased to have done them. I do not regret anything. Two of them have been chosen among the hundred best comedies of all time according to the AFI (American Film Institute). It is true that some of them have changed a couple of things, but in general, I am very happy with all my films.
-Speaking of the politically incorrect. Do not you think the United States is becoming too extreme in this matter? Today you can practically say nothing without offending someone.
-It's totally true, but I think it's something more global, right?
– I believe that in my country it has not yet reached the same extreme.
-Where are you from?
-I'm moving there (laughs). The truth is that although it is very exaggerated, very good things have come out of it. But it is also true that it is much more complicated to tell a joke today. I do not know if today I could have done "Something is wrong with Mary" without being criticized. In particular the "gel" scene in the hair. I remember that we doubt at the time with the study whether to put it or not. They definitely did not want to include it, but I insisted that it was very funny and we should leave it. They were afraid that by including that they could not see her under 17 years old. In one of the passes there was a lady of 85 who was asked by her son what had made her more funny, and the lady said: «The part where Cameron Díaz has the semen in his hair». At that moment I knew that it was going to be a success. If an 85-year-old lady is funny, she has to be funny to everyone.
– In "Green Book" had to take care of the kind of jokes?
-No, because being based on two real characters you have to be faithful to his personality and Tony, the character played by Viggo, is an Italian without higher education, a hustler with a very limited vision of the world, so he will let go things that do not sound good.
-The balance between hilarious moments and dramatic ones are very well established. How do i do it?
-To be totally honest, when you read the script for the first time it did not have much grace. They were rather laughter and lots of smiles. But the reality is that the interpretation of both actors is so good that it has made it much more fun. Letting them do their job as best they can develop has been the best gift. That's where good acting really elevates the script to another level.