The family of pianist Dr. Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali in the new movie Green Book, have said they are ‘furious’ about how he is portrayed in the movie.
His nephew Edwin Shirley III and his brother Maurice Shirley have called the film, directed by Peter Farrelly and also starring Viggo Mortensen, as ‘a symphony of lies’.
It tells the story of the virtuoso jazz and classical pianist and his driver Tony ‘Lip’ Vallelonga, an Italian American from the Bronx who is hired to chauffeur Shirley on a tour of the deep south in Jim Crow-era America.
However, the movie’ plot claims that Shirley was estranged from his family.
“It was rather jarring,” Edwin Shirley told Shadow and Act. “That was very hurtful. That’s just 100% wrong.”
“At that point, he had three living brothers with whom he was always in contact,” Maurice added.
“One of the things Donald used to remind me in his later years was he literally raised me…There wasn’t a month where I didn’t have a phone call conversation with Donald.”
The family has also denied that Shirley and Vallelonga were friends at all, despite the movie being ‘inspired by a true friendship’.
Asked if the pair were friends, Maurice and his wife Patricia told the website: “No. Not at all.”
Maurice also went on to say that Vallelonga was fired by Shirley.
“You asked what kind of relationship he had with Tony? He fired Tony! When you hear that Tony had been with him for 18 months, I can assure you, no chauffeur lasted with my brother for 18 months. Anybody who knew my brother’s temper and had any experience with any of his other chauffeurs.”
“I remember very, very clearly, going back 30 years, my uncle had been approached by Nick Vallelonga, the son of Tony Vallelonga, about a movie on his life, and Uncle Donald told me about it,” Edwin added “He flatly refused.”
“I got a call from Mahershala Ali, a very, very respectful phone call, from him personally,” Maurice went on. “He called me and my Uncle Maurice in which he apologized profusely if there had been any offense.”