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'Green Book' earns 5 Golden Globe nominations; director Peter Farrelly hopes middle America notices

'Green Book' earns 5 Golden Globe nominations; director Peter Farrelly hopes middle America notices
Mahershala Ali, left, writer-director Peter Farrelly and Viggo Mortensen at the "Green Book" New York premiere. The film was nominated for best director, best screenplay and best picture Golden Globes. (Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images)

Nominated for five Golden Globes, Universal’s “Green Book” is one of the most polarizing awards contenders of the season. The buddy comedy, starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, is a critical darling but has struggled to find its legs at the box office.

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Despite this, and amid recent controversy that was sparked after Mortensen vocalized the n-word during a Q&A, the film garnered five of Universal's seven nominations, including nods for director Peter Farrelly, actor Mortensen, supporting actor Ali, screenplay and picture.

“I’d like to thank the HFPA for this extraordinary honor,” said Ali in an emailed statement. “I’m humbled that all our work has been recognized in such a broad capacity, especially that of my friends Viggo Mortensen and Peter Farrelly. ‘Green Book’ offered a unique opportunity to embody a man with breadth, virtuosity and complexity. I’m so grateful that our story has resonance in a time that calls for empathy.”

“I am grateful to the HFPA for this recognition and proudly share it with Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini and the rest of ‘Green Book’s' wonderful cast,” echoed Mortensen in a statement. “Thank you Peter Farrelly for making a movie that inspires hope and compassion. By inviting audiences to laugh and be genuinely moved and also to think profoundly about our society’s past and present, you have given us a story equal to the best work of Frank Capra and Preston Sturges.”

The Times caught up with Farrelly (who also co-wrote the script) to gauge his reaction to the nominations.

Where were you when you got the news?

I was in bed [laughs]. It's funny, I'm actually a really good sleeper. I stay up late and I can sleep pretty well, but of course, I woke up at like 5:05 a.m. [Pacific time]. My body just woke me up and then I stared at the phone because I was thinking, ‘Well, doesn’t this thing start at 5?' And then I waited about 20 minutes until the phone started ringing like crazy.

Who is the first person you told?

Who I told? People were telling me, I haven't told anybody yet! All my friends and my family and everybody from the studio, they're all calling me. I think people are ahead of me because, being that I'm from the East Coast originally, a lot of my friends were up so they kept sending me messages.

How does it feel?

It feels great, it feels really good. The thing that feels great about it is a movie like this needs nominations for Mrs. Cornbluth in Duluth to find out about it. And that's important. I know people know about this movie in New York and L.A. and Chicago, but I want America to find out about it.

Do you think/hope this recognition will help the film to build an audience?

Yeah, [the studio] kind of anticipated a slow start. We never thought it would come out of the gate hard because it's just not that kind of movie. But the plan is to let it run and run and I think it will. And I think this will definitely help.

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lip in "Green Book," directed by Peter Farrelly.
Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lip in "Green Book," directed by Peter Farrelly. (Universal Pictures)

Why do you think the story of Don Shirley and Tony Lip's friendship has been so well-received critically?

Because it's hopeful. There's so much negativity in the world right now, particularly surrounding race, and this was a hopeful story that had a happy ending. It was about two guys that were complete opposites who found common ground and that's why I wanted to make the movie, honestly. I wanted to show that there is a lot of hope, you just have to talk.

What do you hope for the legacy of this film?

I hope it's a movie that can in some small way incrementally move the needle in the right direction in [terms of] race relations in this country.

What will you do to celebrate?

Probably nothing today because I have to work tomorrow. But tomorrow night I'm going to get hammered [laughs].

Any last thoughts?

I'm just so grateful about the whole thing. I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press, it’s very kind of them to nominate us and I'm very, very, very happy about it.

In The Envelope's Actors Roundtable, Viggo Mortensen describes working with Peter Farrelly, known primarily as a comedic director, on the drama "Green Book."
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