How sea­soned com­edy di­rec­tor Peter Far­relly switched to drama for Green Book

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - John nu­gent

How Mr Dumb And Dum­ber could be­come Mr Os­car & Os­carier with his new movie, Green Book.

Peter Far­relly’s last movie fea­tured a scene in which two mid­dleaged men play a game of com­pet­i­tive farts. His new movie Green Book, telling the true story of african-amer­i­can pi­anist Don shirley tour­ing the 1960s Deep south with mis­matched Ital­ianamer­i­can driver tony ‘lip’ Val­le­longa, is pretty dif­fer­ent. Best known for over two decades as a gross-out mer­chant (Dumb And Dum­ber, There’s Some­thing About Mary, Shal­low Hal), it’s clear that wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily al­ways the plan. “after our first few come­dies, I should have said, ‘Hey, we should do a drama!’” he laughs. “But we didn’t. It’s like fall­ing in love: you can’t plan these things.”

It’s not just a sig­nif­i­cant new di­rec­tion: it also marks the first film with­out his brother Bobby (who has briefly stepped back from film­mak­ing, for per­sonal rea­sons).

“to be hon­est, it re­ally wasn’t any dif­fer­ent for me than di­rect­ing a com­edy,” Far­relly says of the switch in gen­res. the real chal­lenge came in the writ­ing process: screen­writ­ing with Brian Cur­rie and Nick Val­le­longa (son of the real tony lip), Far­relly had to re­strain him­self. “My ten­dency is to go for the joke,” he ac­knowl­edges. “each time, I had to say to my­self: ‘No, that’s a dif­fer­ent movie. We have to be true to this story.’”

there may be no fart gags here, but that’s not to say the story is with­out lev­ity. “I am flex­ing a slightly dif­fer­ent mus­cle,” agrees Far­relly. “the hu­mour is nu­anced and char­ac­ter-driven.” Much of that comes down to the two lead ac­tors, Viggo Mortensen and Ma­her­shala ali, who spark off each other in a charm­ing, Odd Cou­ple kind of way; the for­mer as a salt-of-the-earth lug­head; the lat­ter, a prim-and-proper gram­mar fiend. “I didn’t ex­pect the out­right laughs that we’re get­ting,” Far­relly says. “that’s com­ing from the act­ing. Ma­her­shala’s re­ac­tion to what Viggo’s do­ing is what’s killing.”

If there’s one con­sis­tent el­e­ment from a Far­relly movie, it’s the road trip. this is his fifth or sixth film on the road, de­pend­ing on your def­i­ni­tion; here, the char­ac­ters use the ‘Ne­gro Mo­torist Green Book’ to nav­i­gate the hos­tile Jim Crow-era Us. Far­relly ad­mits he’s fas­ci­nated by the open road, hav­ing driven across the states 22 times (“16 alone”) — but this is the only sim­i­lar­ity the film has with Dumb And Dum­ber. “I get a lot from the car. [But] it’s not a con­scious re­cur­ring theme. this is based on a true story.”

earn­ing a rap­tur­ous re­cep­tion at toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, Green Book won the Peo­ple’s Choice award — an im­por­tant bell­wether for the Os­cars. How does he feel about awards sea­son? “I wanna win so fuck­ing badly!” he laughs, in mock des­per­a­tion. “No, I’m kid­ding. I don’t think about it. I just hope Viggo and Ma­her­shala get what they de­serve; I don’t think there are two bet­ter ac­tors work­ing to­day.” From com­pet­i­tive farts to com­pet­ing at the Os­cars: quite the jour­ney.

Top to bot­tom: Far­relly, ready for a dra­matic turn. Tour­ing ten­sion for pi­anist Don Shirley (Ma­her­shala Ali) and chauf­feur Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen). The di­rec­tor hits the road again, sans buf­foon­ery.

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