It was quite a sight back at the Toronto Film Festival in September to see Peter Farrelly (of course best known as one half of the Farrelly Brothers directing duo that gave us Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary) on stage for a standing ovation after the premiere of his new film, Green Book. It was one of those movies that just kind of came out of nowhere, with not much known about it, other than whispers of, “Can you believe Peter Farrelly has a movie at a film festival?” From his remarks, it seemed like Farrelly couldn’t believe it either, admitting he’s never eve been to a film festival before. Now, here we are a couple of months later, and his film is squarely in the Oscar discussion.
When talking to Farrelly, you can tell he missed working with his brother, Bobby, on this project. As Peter explains, when Green Book was being developed, Bobby was taking time off to mourn the loss of his son. So Peter decided to go it alone this time, with Bobby still always a phone call away as “his biggest fan.”
But under the sometimes-sensational humor, there’s always been an underlying sweetness to the characters of the Farrelly Brothers movies, so it’s not terribly surprising that Peter Farrelly has made an emotional, sweet movie that tells the true story of the at first rocky but eventual lifelong friendship between a gregarious bouncer named Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), and classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), as the two traveled the segregated South together in 1962 on a concert tour. But even as Farrelly explains, it’s a little surprising that someone let him make it.
The first time I interviewed you I mentioned that after seeing Dumb & Dumber I randomly drove from Kansas City to Canada…
Yeah! Of course. You and your buddy?
Right. But when I first saw Green Book, I was already in Canada. So we have come full circle.
Fantastic. Did you see it in Toronto? At the festival?
Oh, dynamite. That was … what a trip that was! That was nuts.
This movie made me feel okay about humanity again for a little bit.
That’s what drew me to this movie. When I heard of the story, I ran into a buddy of mine, he told me a black concert pianist has to take a tour of the south 1962. He hires a bouncer – an Italian American bouncer with a sixth-grade education – who’s racist himself, but good with his fists, to drive them. Somehow, after being in the car for a couple of months, they became friends for life. That’s what got me. I was like, “What? What do you mean? The racist and the concert pianist? They were friends?” That’s when I thought, “I want to see how this happens.” That’s what hooked me in. I wanted something that would be hopeful. That’s what this story was. It was about two complete opposites finding common ground.