Nick Vallelonga has been one of the new bright stars of the 2018 movie awards season, thanks to his screenplay for Green Book. The crowd-pleaser, about a white racist from the Bronx (Viggo Mortensen) who befriends an esteemed black pianist (Mahershala Ali), has earned raves and accolades, most recently the trophy for the Best Picture — Musical or Comedy award at this Sunday’s Golden Globes. But now Vallelonga is under fire for an old, polarizing tweet, in which he enthusiastically endorsed President Trump’s thoroughly debunked claim that Muslims celebrated 9/11.
The tweet, like many such potentially damaging tweets, hails from long before Vallelonga had achieved crossover success. In 2015, then-presidential nominee, at one of his rallies, doubled down on his (again) discredited charge that he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheering as the World Trade Center buildings collapsed.
Vallelonga then tweeted his support of the future 45th president: .@RealDonaldTrump 100% correct. Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down. I saw it, as you did, possibly on local CBS news.
The tweet lived on his account through the entire awards season, as he won awards for a film that preached racial harmony, and whose one star, Ali, is Muslim. It resurfaced on Wednesday, at which point Vallelonga, as per IndieWire, deleted his entire account — but not before the offending tweet was screengrabbed and posted for posterity.
IndieWire reached out to Vallelonga for comment, though all a representative for him would say, over e-mail, was “The twitter account has been deleted… not sure if any comment is actually needed here.”
Green Book has already come under fire for its, shall we say, uncomfortable look at race relations; you can find no finer takedown than right here. (This is good, too.) The family of Dr. Don Shirley, the pianist played by Ali, have also come after the film, saying the story — based on his father’s alleged friendship with Shirley as his driver — is largely a fiction, and that the two were never friends, and that Shirley wasn’t estranged from his family and, yes, had eaten fried chicken before.
A look at Vallelonga’s IMDb page reveals someone who got lucky after a long history on the industry’s fringes. His dozens of acting credits are largely uncredited extra work (including in The Godfather, Splash, and Goodfellas). That said, he’s written and directed several films himself, including the 1993 Corbin Bernsen thriller A Brilliant Disguise, about a “one part sexual nymph, one part man-hating psycho.” His lengthy IMDb bio, attributed to “Vallelonga,” includes reference to a CD he “wrote, performed, and recorded” to honor “the 9/11 tragedy,” called New York City Christmas, which he “dedicated to the New York City Police and Firemen.”
With Green Book, Vallelonga became a sudden golden boy, with few delving deep into his past. Finding a tweet that backs up Trump on his anti-Muslim rhetoric was not found till after it stormed the Golden Globes. Green Book is considered a frontrunner in in the Best Picture Oscar race, battling it out for voters’ love with such acclaimed films as BlacKkKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk.