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"Much of the criticism that was leveled at that movie was not only unreasonable, but it was inaccurate, mendacious and irresponsible," Mortensen said of the criticism toward Green Book

December 08, 2020 10:42 PM
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'Green Book' premiere, Rome Film Festival, Italy - 24 Oct 2018
Viggo Mortensen
| Credit: Fabio Mazzarella/Sintesi/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Viggo Mortensen is pushing back against the criticism his 2018 movie Green Book received.

While promoting his new film, Falling, the 62-year-old actor told The Independent in an interview published on Saturday, "It's become a cliché to say, 'Is this movie going to be the Green Book of this year?' Green Book has become a pejorative."

The movie 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.

Mahershala Ali played Shirley while Mortensen portrayed Lip. 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.

The film won three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, which went to Ali, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture and winning against other nominees such as BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther and Roma.

Mortensen found the online criticism of the film to be "hurtful and destructive."

"Much of the criticism that was leveled at that movie was not only unreasonable, but it was inaccurate, mendacious and irresponsible," he said. "It's based on a load of b------- and an ax to grind and little else."

'Green Book' Film - 2018
Mortensen in Green Book
| Credit: Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

He added, "Does it affect what I'm doing, or how people perceive me as an actor? Maybe it does. But I can't really do anything about that."

Several controversies surrounded Green Book on its journey to Best Picture winner at the Oscars including Mortensen’s use of the N-word after a screening of the film in November 2018.

The actor issued an apology in a statement to PEOPLE at the time, 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 man people casually used the ’N’ word at the time in which the movie story takes place, in 1962, I used the full word," he continued, before clarifying 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."

Now, Mortensen has written, directed and starred in his next film, Falling, which has received its own controversy surrounding the actor's decision to portray a gay man who invites his conservative father Willis to live with him and his husband, Eric (Terry Chen), when Willis experiences symptoms of dementia.

Earlier this month, Mortensen defended his decision to play the role in an interview with The Times.

24th Annual Critics' Choice Awards, Arrivals, Barker Hanger, Los Angeles, USA - 13 Jan 2019
Viggo Mortensen
| Credit: Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

"Look, these are the times we're living in, and I think it's healthy that those issues are brought up," Mortensen said. "The short answer is that I didn't think it was a problem. And people then ask me, 'Well what about Terry Chen, who plays my husband in the film, is he a homosexual?' "

"And the answer is I don't know, and I would never have the temerity to ask someone if they were, during the casting process," the actor continued. "And how do you know what my life is? You're assuming that I'm completely straight. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. And it's frankly none of your business."

He added, "I want my movie to work, and I want the character of John to be effective. So if I didn't think it was a good idea, I wouldn't do it."

Mortensen has kept his personal life private throughout his career. The actor has been in a relationship with the Spanish actress Ariadna Gil for 11 years. He also has a 32-year-old son, Henry, from his 10-year marriage to punk singer Exene Cervenka. The two divorced in 1998.