Middleburg Film Fest: Q&A with Viggo Mortensen & Peter Farrelly of 'Green Book'

Source: Northern Virginia Magazine

The star and director talk about their award-winning film and the great team they had on set.

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When we went to talk with actor Viggo Mortensen and writer and director Peter Farrelly about the closing night film of the Middleburg Film Festival, Green Book, there was a line of eager moviegoers that stretched from the Salamander Resort's ballroom to the lobby waiting to catch the second screening of the film. That's the kind of anticipation that this true story of an Italian-American bouncer, Tony Vallelonga, hired to take Dr. Don Shirley, a black concert pianist, on a tour through the Jim Crow South creates.

Farrelly, best known for comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary, and Mortensen shared with us what drew them to this story and how they, along with co-star Mahershala Ali, brought this incredible story of friendship to life.

Coming from a comedy background, what made you want to tackle a more dramatic story?

Farrelly: As soon as I heard it I was envious. When [Nick Vallelonga] was telling me this story I was envious. I thought about it for weeks or a couple months and finally got back to him and I was shocked that he wasn't running with it. I said, 'can I please do it with you, I love this thing,' and then we got the ball rolling.

I give a [expletive] about these issues (race relations). I wanted to tell that story because, honestly, it pisses me off. I'm always squawking to my friends about this stuff, but I really hadn't done anything. So that was part of it, but it wasn't the main thing. It was just a movie that called to me and I knew I had to do this movie.

Was there any particular thing about the character or story that made you want to take on this role?

Mortensen: When I read the script it wasn't like it was one thing, it was just a series of moments, and the structure. I love the fact that you start with this Italian-American family, very specific at that time, that kind of culture, everything: noisy, very interactive, warm and loud, chaotic maybe. It's a great setup for Doc Shirley's entrance because he comes in and it's like, oh. And the audience is already a step ahead; they know this is a mismatch, this is going to be tough. And the more you see them interacting and the more Tony just shoots his mouth off, you realize these guys are not made for each other; two months might not work. There's so many [situations] that I laughed as I was reading.

How does it help working so closely with another actor in developing your role?

Mortensen: It can go well and it can go not so well. You don't have to get along with someone. I've seen movies — whether it's a love story or just a buddy movie — where somebody told me, 'you know those guys hated each other.' Sometimes it works anyway.

Farrelly: These guys didn't hate each other.

Mortensen: In this case I think it did help. I think it's palpable. You can definitely feel that there's a connection and there's an interest from one character to another. With Mahershala, everything he did was to help me do better, and I felt that way about him. The more I could provoke him the better his reaction was and the bigger the contrast.

It feels like a sport thing to me, acting. It's like, we've got a good team, we could go far. If you don't have a good team it puts a little bit of a ceiling on it, no matter how good the script is. If people are only protecting their own, first of all it's not as much fun, but second of all it limits it because if you're not paying attention to the other guy you're going to miss little things that surprise you.

On Monday, Green Book was named the Audience Award winner for the 2018 Middleburg Film Festival. Green Book will be released on Nov. 21.
Last edited: 7 November 2018 03:45:31
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