New Don Shirley Biopic Out November 16

New Don Shirley Biopic Out November 16

Universal has announced that it will release Green Book on November 16 in roughly 20 cities across the U.S. before breaking wide on November 21. The film is partly inspired by the life of jazz pianist-composer Dr. Don Shirley. It stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, and is directed by Peter Farrelly.

Watch the official trailer for Green Book via the player below:


Set in the ’60, Green Book explores themes of segregation and discrimination in the U.S. It tells the story of Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Mortensen), an Italian-American bouncer from the Bronx, hired to drive Shirley (Ali) on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South. Along the way, they rely on the title “green book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe and accessible for African Americans. Confronted with racism and danger, as well as unexpected humor, the two men are forced to set aside their differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

Ali, who plays Shirley in the film, has pointed out that the pianist did not need to embark on such a dangerous tour of segregated American South. “He wasn’t in need financially,” he said in an interview with Deadline. “He could have gone to Europe and toured, or stayed up above the Mason-Dixon line and toured there and made money; he was doing fine. Him going down through the segregated South during this time was really a choice to put himself on the front line and expose the South and that community to a man that was educated, cultured and intelligent in a manner that went beyond the stereotypical point of view of a white Southerner at that time. He was there trying to push the boundaries by his sheer presence.”

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in Canada in September, where it picked up the People’s Choice Award, previously given to such films as 12 Years a Slave, The King’s Speech, Chariots of Fire and other features that went on to land an Academy Award for Best Picture. It also garnered much critical acclaim at other film festivals where it was screened this fall, including the U.K.’s BFI London Film Festival, and is scheduled to have its Middle Eastern premiere at the 40th Cairo International Film Festival in Egypt on November 20.

Green Book is directed by Peter Farrelly, best known for co-directing such cult comedy classics as There’s Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber with his brother Bobby. He also co-wrote the screenplay for this film with Brian Hayes Currie and Nick Vallelonga. The latter is the son of Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, who is one of the lead characters of the film.

Feature photo credit: Universal Pictures

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