‘Green Book’ Actor Mahershala Ali Apologized To The Family Of The Man He Played

Actor Mahershala Ali — who won an Oscar and a Golden Globe two years ago for Moonlight — was again nominated for a Golden Globe earlier this month, for his work in the movie Green Book. The film tells the true story of the unlikely relationship between two men, Italian-American driver Tony Lip and African-American concert pianist Donald “Doc” Shirley, as they drove through the Deep South in the early 1960s.

But the film — which was directed by Peter Farrelly and written by Tony Lip’s son Nick Vallelonga — has been somewhat criticized for the way it has focused more on Tony than on Doc, and how the film’s stakes have more to do with Tony’s redemption than anything related to Shirley. Both men depicted in the film passed away in 2013.

Among those most critical of Green Book have been Doc Shirley’s surviving family members, one of whom recently described the film as “a symphony of lies.” And now, Mahershala Ali has apologized to them.

Both Shirley’s brother, Maurice, and his nephew, Edwin, both recently received phone calls from Ali, apologizing to the men. The phone calls came the day after the two Shirley men had discussed their displeasure with the film in an interview.

“I got a call from Mahershala Ali, a very, very respectful phone call, from him personally. He called me and my Uncle Maurice in which he apologized profusely if there had been any offense,” Edwin told the website Shadow and Act. “What he said was, ‘If I have offended you, I am so, so terribly sorry. I did the best I could with the material I had. I was not aware that there were close relatives with whom I could have consulted to add some nuance to the character.’”

Ali did not speak to the website, or any other news outlet, about what he said on the phone call.

Ali’s performance is one aspect of the film that has mostly been praised by critics, even among those who otherwise disliked Green Book.

Shirley’s complaints about the film, and Doc Shirley’s portrayal in it, are manifold. They object to factual assertions in the film, from the implication that Shirley was estranged from his family to the idea that Shirley and Tony Lip even considered themselves friends. In fact, they claim, Shirley fired Tony as his driver.

The family members also claim that they weren’t consulted at any time during the film’s production, and that the real Doc Shirley disapproved of the idea of his story being told on screen.

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