All the Controversies Green Book Faced on Its Way to Oscars Win
Green Book closed out the 2019 Oscars by winning Best Picture
Green Book took home the 2019 Academy Award for Best Picture — and some viewers are not happy about it.
The film, which tells the story of the late Dr. Don Shirley — the real-life African-American pianist, who recruited Italian-American Tony Lip to be his driver as he embarked on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962 — closed out the Oscars Sunday night with its third win, prompting a number of social media users to express their dissatisfaction on Twitter.
“Remember when Green Book won Best Picture? Man, that choice did not age well,” author Mark Harris wrote.
“In what universe [is] Green Book better than Blackkklansman, Roma, Black Panther, Favourite and a Star is Born? America 2019,” writer Wajahat Al tweeted.
“Wow. just wow. Notice how they did not even acknowledge the creator of the actual Green Book, Victor Hugo Green in the acceptance speech for Best Picture. ‘It all started with Viggo.’ How disrespectful,” Film/TV critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon tweeted.
“No, I thought it was courtside at the Garden, and the ref made a bad call,” the die-hard New York basketball team fan said. “The world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Knicks coming back next year.”
Green Book earned mixed reviews when it was released, with some praising its upbeat message about interracial friendship while others criticized its take on racial issues as clichéd or retrograde.
Since then, the film has sparked several additional controversies — and has faced a significant amount of backlash.
In January, after winning a Golden Globe for his screenplay, Green Book writer Nick Vallelonga apologized and vowed to “do better” after an old tweet resurfaced recently in which he supported a debunked anti-Muslim claim spread by President Donald Trump.
The tweet in question was posted by Vallelonga in November 2015, according to screenshots. Vallelonga has since deleted his entire Twitter account amid stinging criticism.
Vallelonga had replied to Trump, then running for president, to support Trump’s false claim about Muslims in America cheering on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down. I saw it, as you did, possibly on local CBS news,” Vallelonga tweeted at the time. Trump was “100 percent correct,” he claimed.
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In a statement to PEOPLE, Vallelonga apologized for the remark.
“I spent my life trying to bring this story of overcoming differences and finding common ground to the screen, and I am incredibly sorry to everyone associated with Green Book,” he said. (The film’s studio, Universal, had no comment.)
Green Book director Peter Farrelly also offered up an apology for something shameful he had done in the past: flashing his penis.
“True. I was an idiot,” he said in a statement in January. “I did this decades ago and I thought I was being funny and the truth is I’m embarrassed and it makes me cringe now. I’m deeply sorry.”
The accounts were detailed in a recent story by The Cut, citing a 1998 Newsweek article, that said Farrelly used to flash his genitals while on the set of his movies — including to celebrities such as Cameron Diaz.
In the Newsweek article, Diaz, who starred in the Farrelly brothers’ 1998 movie There’s Something About Mary, recalled auditioning for the hit comedy. “When a director shows you his penis the first time you meet him, you’ve got to recognize the creative genius,” she said at the time.
Representatives for Diaz did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment last month.
The 60-year-old actor was at a Q&A for the Oscar contender — which deals with issues of racism and segregation — on Nov. 7 in Los Angeles alongside his costar Ali.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Mortensen apologized for his choice of words, saying, “Last night I participated in a Q&A session moderated by Elvis Mitchell following a screening of Green Book in Los Angeles. In making the point that many people casually used the ‘N’ word at the time in which the movie story takes place, in 1962, I used the full word.”
The former Lord of the Rings actor clarified that “although my intention was to speak strongly against racism, I have no right to even imagine the hurt that is caused by hearing that word in any context, especially from a white man.”
In addition to the public controversies, the film was condemned by members of the real Dr. Shirley’s family.
During an interview with Shadow and Act, Dr. Shirley’s nephew Edwin Shirley III and brother Maurice Shirley slammed the film as a “symphony of lies.”
“It was rather jarring,” Edwin told the outlet after seeing the film’s portrayal of his uncle, who is shown as estranged from his family and black culture.
The family said Dr. Shirley was a participant in the civil rights movement and had a bond with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“That was very hurtful,” Edwin continued of seeing his uncle being presented as someone he wasn’t. “That’s just 100% wrong.”
“At that point [in 1962 when the events of the film supposedly take place], he had three living brothers with whom he was always in contact with,” Maurice told Shadow and Act.
The family even denied there ever being a friendship between Dr. Shirley and Lip. “It was an employer-employee relationship,” Maurice’s wife Patricia told the publication.
During an interview with NPR, Maurice and Edwin said they received a call from Ali, who apologized.
“What he said was, ‘If I have offended you, I am so, so terribly sorry. I did the best I could with he material I had. I was not aware that there were close relatives with whom I could have consulted to add some nuance to the character,” Edwin said, Indie Wire reported.
Dr. Shirley died in 2013.
The 91st Academy Awards were broadcast live from Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 24 on ABC.