'Green Book' Actor Viggo Mortensen Claps Back At Donald Shirley's Family

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Mortensen, who previously apologized for using the N-word during a panel for the film, called the family's criticism "uncorroborated and basically unfair."
Sydney Scott Jan, 04, 2019

Viggo Mortensen is pushing back against criticism from Dr. Don Shirley’s family over his film, Green Book, in which he co-stars with Mahershala Ali.

Mortensen, who recently apologized for using the n-word during a panel for the film, told Variety, “[Writer] Nick Vallelonga has shown admirable restraint in the face of some accusations and some claims – including from a couple of family members – that have been unjustified, uncorroborated and basically unfair, that have been countered by other people who knew Doc Shirley well.”

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Mortensen added, “There is evidence that there was not the connection that [the family members] claimed there was with him, and perhaps there’s some resentment.”

In December, Dr. Shirley’s brother, Maurice Shirley, and nephew, Edwin Shirley III, told Shadow and Act that seeing the film was “jarring” and called the portrayal of Dr. Shirley “a symphony of lies.”

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Director Peter Farrelly also told Variety that he was “disappointed” by the family’s reaction.

“When we found out about the family, we tried to embrace them,” Farrelly said. “And they’re not having it right now, and it’s very disappointing.”

Universal Pictures

He continued, “I don’t think it would have changed the movie at all. This is a movie about a two-month period in these men’s lives. It’s not about him and his family. It really isn’t.”

After Ali stood by Green Book, telling ESSENCE he didn’t “have a rebuttal” to critics of the film, if reports are true it seems the Oscar winner changed his tune. Shirley’s family told Shadow and Act that Ali called to apologize for his part.

“What he said was, ‘If I have offended you, I am so, so terribly sorry,” Edwin told the website.”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.’”