Peter Far­relly

Newsweek - - Contents -

his name isn’t men­tioned in the trailer for his new film, Green Book, per­haps be­cause “From one-half of the guys who brought you Dumb and Dum­ber comes a pres­tige drama about racism” might cause, at best, con­fu­sion. “Peo­ple didn’t know what I would do with this kind of ma­te­rial,” Peter Far­relly tells Newsweek. “It was an up­hill bat­tle.” Se­cur­ing his leads, Os­car-nom­i­nated Viggo Mortensen and Os­car-win­ner Ma­her­shala Ali (Moon­light), greased the wheels. Ali plays African-amer­i­can con­cert pi­anist Don Shirley, and Mortensen is his un­e­d­u­cated, racist driver, Tony Lip, on a tour of the Deep South in 1962. What might sound like a re­verse Driv­ing Miss Daisy is, in fact, a true story. (Nick Val­le­longa, son of the real Lip, co-wrote the script with Far­relly and Brian Hayes Cur­rie.) Far­relly says di­rect­ing Green Book was no dif­fer­ent from his come­dies, but the writ­ing was trick­ier. “I made the best ef­fort not to go for jokes,” he says.“i didn’t think it was funny at all un­til shoot­ing. In the hands of these two ac­tors [both at­tract­ing Os­car buzz], lit­tle things be­came funny be­cause of the way they play off each other.” Are crit­ics treat­ing you dif­fer­ently be­cause of Green Book?

I did not know how dis­re­spected I was un­til this came out. [Laughs.] Com­edy doesn’t get re­spect from crit­ics, but I never got into the movie busi­ness hop­ing to get great re­views. One of our movies [There’s Some­thing About Mary] is on the AFI top 100 fun­ni­est of all time list, but crit­ics act like this is the first time I’ve ever done a real movie! I prob­a­bly should have done what Rob Reiner did. He started with Spinal Tap, then does Stand By Me and shows he can do it all.

How did you cast your leads?

One of the names we threw around was Jon Favreau. We thought, Big, burly guy, be­cause Lip was a big guy. [Favreau] is a good ac­tor, but around that time I saw Cap­tain Fan­tas­tic—i al­most missed it be­cause I thought it was a su­per­hero film—and I loved it. I said, What about that guy? Ev­ery­one said, “For­get it. You can’t get him.” I wrote him a let­ter: “Dear Viggo, please read the first three pages of this script, and if you don’t like it, cool.”

He got back to me two days later. He re­ally liked it but didn’t know if he could do it. I said, “Are you kid­ding? You did East­ern Prom­ises—this is kit­tens com­pared to that!” Af­ter sev­eral vis­its, we con­vinced him to do it, and he be­gan pound­ing on the weight. He gained 45 pounds. Ma­her­shala was a no-brainer—i love the guy. When you’re with him, it feels like you’re in the pres­ence of an el­e­vated soul. —Anna Menta

“I didn’t know how dis­re­spected I was un­til Green Book came out.”

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