Viggo Mortensen appears transformed in the dramatic comedy “Green Book: On the roads of the South”. In 2018, the actor revealed that he had initially refused the role of Tony Lip, believing that he did not have the ideal profile.
Green Book : a friendship born on the road
For his first feature film made without his brother Bobby, Peter Farrelly (Mary at all costs, Fous d’Irene) moves away from schoolboy comedy and is inspired by a true story. That of musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his driver Frank Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), nicknamed “Tony the chat”. In 1962, the pianist embarked on a tour, leaving from Manhattan to join the South of the segregationist United States. He hires the Italian-American bouncer to ensure the trips, as well as his protection.
In order to choose their various stops in this part of America strongly marked by racism, the two men rely on the Green Book, a travel guide for African-Americans which lists establishments welcoming people of color. Realizing what Don is going through, Tony puts aside his prejudices and their journey gives birth to a long friendship.
Linda Cardellini completes the cast of Green Book: On the roads of the South, comedy-drama written by Nick Vallelonga, son of Tony, alongside Peter Farrelly and Brian Hayes Currie. In 2019, the three screenwriters win an Oscar for their work. The feature film also won the statuettes of Best Film and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali.
Shapeshifting Viggo Mortensen
If he is on his side named for the third time in his career after Shadow Promises and Captain Fantastic, Viggo Mortensen unfortunately leaves the ceremony empty-handed. Which obviously does not detract from the quality of its performance. Transformed, the actor appears much bulkier than usual in Green Books and develops an Italian-American accent. For the purposes of the film, he takes 20 kiloschowing down on many pizzas and other pasta dishes.
About his preparation based on Italian food, Viggo Mortensen says in an interview for The New Republic :
First, I weighted and ate huge amounts of pasta, pizza and desserts: it really wasn’t the hardest part of the preparation. You could do it if you wanted! For the rest, I listened to recordings of Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, and I saw heaps of documents to listen well and integrate the vocabulary and the accent of the Bronx. And then I talked to his son, Nick, who wrote the screenplay. He opened his doors to me, introduced him to his family, I dined with them on Long Island, I was able to observe them, discover photos, recordings of Tony.
Meetings that erased doubts
It is moreover by exchanging with Nick Vallelonga and his family that the actor thinks that he is able to embody Tony, after initially turned down the role. During an interview for The Playlisthe explains :
It all seemed terrifying to me at first, which is why I respectfully declined the role at first. (…) It was one of the best screenplays I’ve read in a long time. (…) It’s deep, it’s funny, it’s a history lesson. (…) But I am not Italian-American. So I said to Pete, “You should choose an Italian-American actor.” (…) But I overcame that, because I had a very good experience. (…) Nick Vallelonga put me on the right track. (…) I spent a lot of time with his relatives in New Jersey, New York, Long Island. And I gradually started to feel comfortable. (…) I said to myself: “OK, it’s just one step at a time, like any job”.