Interview on Mahershala Ali about the movie Green Book by Essence in 2018
Mahershala Ali isn’t bothered by what critics say about his film, Green Book, because they’re “entitled to their opinion.”
The Oscar-buzzing film stars Ali and his co-star Viggo Mortensen as a Black classical pianist, Dr. Don Shirley, and an Italian-American bouncer-turned-chauffeur, Tony Vallelonga, respectively, who use The Negro Motorist Green Book to safely tour the American South in the 60s.
Shadow and Act writer Brooke Obie called the film “poorly titled,” adding that the film — in her opinion — often used the books as a prop instead of it being central to the story, as the title implies.
When asked by ESSENCE earlier this month about the film’s title being criticized, Ali said the mixed reviews are “fair.”
“They are entitled to their opinion,” the Oscar-winner continued. “I don’t really have a rebuttal to that.”
Green Book, out in limited theaters today and nationwide on Thanksgiving, was written by Nick Vallelonga, the son of Tony portrayed in the film, Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly.
The younger Vallelonga has a close connection to the film’s story pertaining to the friendship it portrays, as Nick Vallelonga had even met Dr. Shirley before he passed in 2013 and grew up listening to his music.
Maira Liriano, who curates a collection of Green Books inside The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Center in New York City, spoke during a press call Thursday, hoping to educate the media about the importance of The Negro Motorist Green Book,published by Victor Hugo Green during America’s segregation era. It helped Black travelers locate safe places to lay their heads.
Although she stopped short of criticizing the film, she did admit that Green Book“misrepresents things” when it comes to one scene.
She noted that the accommodations in the hotels shown in the film were “run down” or “not very desirable places to be staying in. That is definitely a misrepresentation of what the reality was” at times.
In fact, Liriano said the accommodations listed were often rated and reviewed by travelers to ensure that they were indeed safe and comfortable places where African Americans could stay.
Ali said that critiques, like Obie’s however, don’t take away from the film he and his co-star decided to create.
“We made a film abut two gentleman who are very different, from very different worlds,” the actor continued, “and the Green Book was key to them to be able to even go on the journey.”
“If that is not centered enough for their personal opinion…I’m not going to argue with them, but that’s what we chose to do and we stand by it,” Ali concluded.