It was a big night at the Golden Globes for Green Book. The film won three awards, the most of any movie for the night. But the film has been subject to controversy lately, as the family of Dr. Donald Shirley, the talented real-life pianist portrayed by Mahershala Ali, has spoken out against the film.
In the Globes’ press room after the film won Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical, Shadow and Act asked the producers of the film that since the project means a lot to them and their families, what message did they have for the members of Dr. Shirley’s family who disapproved of the film. (S&A also asked Mahershala Ali about the family’s objections to the film, as well.)
After no one spoke up, the film’s executive producer and Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer stepped forward, saying, “I’ll take that one…falling on the sword here!” as she laughed.
She then stated, “You know what, I’m a little troubled that answering that question could cause them [the Shirley family] any more distress. So what I’d like to say in lieu of anything directly to the Shirley family is what it meant to me. Because I’ve been a part of four films from this era, and it was the first time I saw a person of color with agency. And I thought, ‘This is a guy I want to know, and this is a guy whose story needs to be out there for the young people who are still in the resistance.’ So, for me, it was about the idea that there were people like Don Shirley in the ’60s, and we never saw that on the film. That’s what I took from it, and that’s what I still take from it. I thank Pete and Nick and Mahershala and Viggo and all of the filmmakers for putting their hearts into it. So that’s what I’d say to the Shirley family. He meant a lot to a lot of people, and I’m glad that we got to share that story.
In an extensive interview with Shadow and Act last month, the Shirley family called Green Book a “symphony of lies.” In the piece, Shadow and Act‘s managing editor Brooke Obie noted, “…director and co-writer Peter Farrelly has been doing quite a bit of talking, mainly throwing his most visible Black collaborators under the bus: Ali and executive producer Octavia Spencer.” In a prior interview with Vulture, Farrelly said, “…I thought, we need a perspective from there. So we sent it to [Octavia] and asked her if she wanted to be involved. She loved it and came in. And she basically backed me a lot of times when I was questioning whether we were doing the right thing.”
Read More of Shadow and Act’s Green Book coverage:
Photo: Kevork Djansezian/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank