The 2018 New Orleans Film Festival got underway last night with a screening of the New Orleans-shot Oscar contender Green Room at the Orpheum Theater with a Q&A with director Peter Farrelly and his co-screenwriters.
Farrelly, who is primarily known for co-writing and directing comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary with his brother Bobby, ventured into new dramatic territory with Green Book. The film is based on a true story about a Copacabana bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) hired by an African-American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) to escort him to concert venues around the South in the early 1960s.
While the movie is the most serious thing Farrelly has done yet, it’s not without humor. In some ways, it feels like a socially conscious version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles(that’s not meant as an insult). There are plenty of laughs along the way as the loutish Mortensen and the fastidious Ali get used to each other. And while Green Book is a movie with a message, it never feels like you’re listening to a sermon or taking your medicine.
At the Q&A after the screening, Farrelly said he did the project because he needed something to work on while his brother Bobby took a hiatus after the tragic death of his 20-year-old son Jesse. One of the film’s co-writers, Brian Hayes Currie, was a friend of Farrelly and approached him with the story. Farrelly was fascinated by it, then met with the other co-screenwriter, Nick Vallelonga (the real-life son of the character Mortensen plays). They all agreed to move forward with the project.
The Q&A panel discussed the filmmaking process. Vallelonga was initially skeptical of casting Mortensen as an Italian-American. But he remembered that one of the silver screen’s most iconic Italian-Americans was played by the non-Italian Marlon Brando in The Godfather and agreed to the casting after meeting Mortensen. Mortensen gained 45 pounds to play the role and Vallelonga said the transformation was remarkable.
“I would turn around on set and see my father,” Vallelonga said.
Farrelly praised the New Orleans film crew members who worked on Green Book. He said the experience of making the film was fantastic, and so was the experience of screening it in the Crescent City in front of an enthusiastic audience.
“This is one of the highlights of my life,” Farrelly told the audience. “It’s really a special night for us.”
Photos from the after party at Jung Hotel.