The 45-Pounds & Hundreds Of Drafts It Took To Launch ‘Green Book’ & ‘First Man’ On The Big Screen: Universal At The Contenders NY

Also appearing at today's session was Green Book composer Kris Bowers who literally was Mahershala Ali's hands in the film, playing all of Shirley's music. In fact, Shirley never wrote any of his music down, so Bowers had to transcribe his jazz music to composition by ear.
When it came to who would play Vallelonga's father, there were notable Italian-American actors thrown around. As far as a non-Italian playing Tony, Vallelonga said, "I didn't want anyone doing a bad Joe Pesci imitation." But when Viggo Mortensen's name was suggest by Farrelly, "It clicked in me," said Vallelonga.
"The most iconic Italian character is The Godfather and he was played by Marlon Brando and he's not Italian. Viggo is so amazing, I saw him doing it," said the producer-writer. And transform, Mortensen did with the Calabrese-Bronx dialect and gaining 45 pounds.
Green Book follows the story of American pianist Don Shirley and his music road tour in the 1960s South with his Italian-American driver and bodyguard Tony the Lip.
Green Book is currently in theaters. First Man is coming soon to home video and SVOD.
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Essentially Vallelonga was respecting the wishes of Shirley who wanted the movie to happen after his death (both Vallelonga and Shirley died in 2013). But it was his son Nick Vallelonga who would bring his father and Shirley's emotional story to the big screen. But Currie didn't hard sell Farrelly; he soft-pitched the idea and let the Dumb and Dumber director get back to him. The real Tony went on to be a character actor in an array of movies such as The Pope of Greenwich Village. Why did it take so long? Vallelonga had interviewed both thoroughly. He told screenwriter Brian Currie about the movie, and he then pitched Green Book to his friend Peter Farrelly.
He was bottled up, and how were we going to show that?" Singer said it took "a hundred" drafts: "The technical stuff was hard, but the emotional stuff was harder….Neil was hard to package.
And such was the jumping off point for the film which was adapted by Spotlight Oscar winner Josh Singer. First Man producer Wyck Godfrey thought he knew everything about first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, but James R. Hansen's book made him wiser. Godfrey didn't know that the man who traveled from a cabin in California to Houston to join the astronaut program all along carried the pain of his young daughter's death.

Peter Bart: After Election Season Where Truth Was Casualty, Hollywood Chases Truth With Fact-Based Films

To some critics, Green Book is inflicted with Driving-Miss-Daisy sentimentality – it is the polar opposite of 12 Years a Slave. In fact, Green Book was co-written by Tony Vallelonga, the son of the driver-bodyguard based on his father’s letters which could not be referenced before his death. But Farrelly’s showmanship, and the skills of his cast, help him overcome that challenge. As the road movie unfolds, each character puts himself at risk in saving the other.
The healthiest antidote to months of political noise, of course, is to avoid the genre completely and bask in vintage MGM musicals, or perhaps Abbott and Costello clips. This is mind-healing fare; but then there’s the less cowardly option: Getting real.
The movie’s title stems from the actual survival guide called The Green Book, created by black travelers of that period who were forced to navigate "whites only" hotels and restaurants. The trek in this case involves a rough-hewn Mafia-style driver and bodyguard, played by a surprising Viggo Mortensen, and a brilliant concert pianist (Mahershala Ali, who won plaudits in Moonlight).
Fact-based movies offer an authenticity and verisimilitude (that ugly word from school) that are missing from Hollywood dramas like A Star Is Born. Still, having been trained as a newsman, I habitually welcome films like Green Book, The Front Runner, Roma and First Man — stories forcefully based on real lives and real events. But the genre also offers its own afflictions: Films can be pedantic, or by contrast, aggressively ambiguous, and hence particularly vulnerable to critics. Pure fiction can be attacked as dopey; a fact-based movie can be dismissed as "fake news."
In Roma, Cuarón summons up his extraordinary filmmaking gifts to depict a family caught up in fires, earthquakes, student riots and personal betrayal, but his focus is on the nuances of humble Mexican family life – clearly Cuarón's. Hence there is no hint of resolution. As some critics point out, its characters never come to grips with their destinies, their aim is simply to quietly endure.
In his own quirky way, Farrelly has a more defined story to spin in Green Book, but he, too, has been hassled by some critics for doing so. He and his brother, Bobby, gave us There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber, and glints of comedy spark the harrowing road movie he’s now fostered. “If I see an opportunity for a joke, I can’t resist,” Peter concedes, and to my taste, the comedic asides reinforce the story. Farrelly is himself odd casting for this movie.
All have this in common: They are based on first hand accounts, whether letters (Green Book) or books by insiders (Front Runner). After the film was shot, we learned that Hart’s fall was, in fact, carefully crafted by Republican hit men, not the result of sharp investigative reporting. Shot in the cinema verite style of The Candidate (the Robert Redford film directed by Michael Ritchie), Reitman’s movie dotes on ambiguities. But if their voices are vivid, even painfully so, they’re often frustrating. Reporters are the good guys, as in Spotlight, but also the hiding-in-the-bushes bad guys, bent on invading Hart’s privacy. In The Front Runner, Jason Reitman retreats from taking a point of view on Gary Hart.
After months of political noise, facts have become something like black holes in our public conversation – rhetoric in search of truth. There’s a certain perversity in the decision to open "fact-based" movies at the close of an election season.
First Man focuses on the psyche of Neil Armstrong, the moon-walker. The Front Runner focuses on the obliteration of Gary Hart’s political career in 1988. Roma is a cinematic meditation on Alfonso Cuarón’s youth. The four films I cited are studies in contrast: Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly, is a male-bonding road movie set in the racially divided ‘60s South.
So do facts survive their ambiguities? Surveying these movies, I would argue that they embellish them. But I think I’ll still need those old MGM musicals.” />
Ryan Gosling is convincingly chilly — the death of a child is suggested as the trigger. Ambiguities also impact First Man. Scrupulously researched and superbly shot, its key scenes focus on a man who is an emotional void. But as Anthony Lane points up in the New Yorker, the movie becomes as chilly as its protagonist.

‘First Man’ & ‘Green Book’ Offer New Perspectives On 1960s America — The Contenders LA

First Man tells the well-known story of Neil Armstrong’s journey to becoming the first man to walk on the moon, in 1969. The other, Green Book, makes a different sort of voyage to another planet, when real-life concert pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who happens to be black, makes an early-1960s concert tour of the Deep South with working-class Italian bouncer Tony Lipp (Viggo Mortensen) acting as his bodyguard.
Composer Hurwitz said he tried to bridge “the home stuff with the space stuff," favoring light and delicate music and the harp for home scenes, bringing out the brass for Apollo 11 and learning to play the eerie theremin to conjure outer space. "That’s not how to play it." “I learned to play it completely wrong,” he joked.
Since so much of the action takes place on the road, with Mortensen’s character in the front seat and Ali’s in the back, both could tap into the comedy of facial reactions the other character could not see. While director Peter Farrelly's Green Book explores the racism of the period, stars Ali and Mortensen both said on the panel moderated by Deadline’s Pete Hammond that they enjoyed playing the humor of the relationship between their characters.
At the end of the conversation, Farrelly — who is known for his broad comedies — deadpanned that Green Book represents a departure to say the least. And he’s reveling in a new kind of acclaim.
“It opened a different side to that icon who [before] had felt distant, like a marble statue.” Chazelle said he was informed by a little-known tragedy in Armstrong’s life — the death of his young daughter eight years before he walked on the moon. “[He] lost her on the eve of becoming an astronaut,” Chazelle said.
When they finally had scenes together and Mortensen could see the well-educated Ali character's appalled reactions to his unsophisticated one, “I had a hard time not laughing out loud.”
“Believe it or not, Dumb and Dumber didn’t get to Cannes,” he said, to laughter. “The best thing [it got was] Hustler magazine gave us a full erection,” Farrelly added, referring to the magazine’s unique standard for rating movies.” />
At today’s The Contenders LA event, Universal Pictures took the audience rocketing back to the 1960s by presenting panels on two very different historical films: First Man and Green Book.
Deadline co-executive editor Mike Fleming Jr. moderated the First Man panel that included director-producer Damien Chazelle, cinematographer Linus Sandgren, editor Tom Cross and composer Justin Hurwitz. The group talked about how they pooled their talents to perhaps create a darker, more melancholy view of the first moon landing than was presented in the rah-rah 1983 hit The Right Stuff.
“Damien always wanted this to be, talked about the balance between the moon and the kitchen sink,” Cross said. Editor Cross said Chazelle wanted to bring two different types of realism, contrasting the warmth of Armstrong’s home life with the claustrophobic, often terrifying life within the space capsule.

Buzz Aldrin Weighs In On ‘First Man’ Flag Flap With Moon Landing Tweet

Now 88, Aldrin was the second man to set foot on the moon minutes after Armstrong's historic "giant leap for mankind." In his missive, he included the hashtags: #proudtobeanAmerican #freedom #honor #onenation #Apollo11 #July1969 #roadtoApollo50. Buzz Aldrin appears to have weighed in on the flap over Neil Armstrong biopic First Man, tweeting a 1969 photo of the pair standing on the moon with the American flag they planted there.
“I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon — his point of view as he first exited the LEM, his time spent at Little West Crater, the memories that may have crossed his mind during his lunar EVA.” La La Land Oscar winner Chazelle responded to critics on Friday, saying he chose to reflect parts of Armstrong’s life others didn’t know about, and that it was not a political statement.
Armstrong’s sons Rick and Mark, and First Man author James R Hansen, in a separate statement, also backed the movie’s choices. It next heads to the Toronto Film Festival.
Ryan Gosling plays Armstrong and Corey Stoll is Aldrin in Damien Chazelle's space epic, personal drama, thriller and science-fan funfair. It was warmly embraced when it world premiered on the Venice Film Festival's opening night last week. It then landed in Telluride, has received rave reviews and has Oscar pundits buzzing.
But what Deadline's Pete Hammond has called an "absurdly ridiculous dust-up" has also surfaced as another faction — the vast majority of which has not seen the movie — has been riled by the filmmakers' choice to not make a centerpiece spectacle of the planting of the star-spangled banner during the legendary moon landing; rather they opted to focus on a deeply personal moment for the lead character.
Wyck Godfrey told me, “Damien wanted to be truly emotionally back with the character (Armstrong) and process the emotional journey." When I met with the producers in Venice, between the press screenings and the gala premiere, I asked them what was behind the decision not to include the moment.
But many online believe the omission may have been deliberate. The flag is visible on the moon and seen several times throughout the movie.″ />
Here's Aldrin's tweet:

‘First Man’ Director Damien Chazelle & Neil Armstrong’s Family On Flag Flap: It’s Not A Political Statement

The filmmakers spent years doing extensive research to get at the man behind the myth, to get at the story behind the story. This is a film that focuses on what you don’t know about Neil Armstrong. It’s a movie that gives you unique insight into the Armstrong family and fallen American Heroes like Elliot See and Ed White. It’s a very personal movie about our dad’s journey, seen through his eyes. It’s a film that focuses on things you didn’t see or may not remember about Neil’s journey to the moon.
As we’ve seen it multiple times, we thought maybe we should weigh in. We’ve read a number of comments about the film today and specifically about the absence of the flag planting scene, made largely by people who haven’t seen the movie.
Here is Chazelle's statement:
Hansen, in separate statements, also backed the movie's choices, saying it's "a film that focuses on things you didn’t see or may not remember about Neil’s journey to the moon." Armstrong's sons Rick and Mark, and First Man author James R.

But don’t take our word for it. Quite the opposite. We’d encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves.” /> In short, we do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest.
My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours. To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. In “First Man” I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA that I chose not to focus upon.
The flag appears several times during the movie, which stars Ryan Gosling as Armstrong, but not having the iconic flag-plant has riled many online, including Sen. Marco Rubio.
This film is about one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history. My hope is that by digging under the surface and humanizing the icon, we can better understand just how difficult, audacious and heroic this moment really was. This was a feat beyond imagination; it was truly a giant leap for mankind. I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon — his point of view as he first exited the LEM, his time spent at Little West Crater, the memories that may have crossed his mind during his lunar EVA.
But not all saw it that way, with a small backlash brewing over the lack of a scene showing Armstrong's planting of the American flag on the moon's surface during his legendary 1969 moon landing. Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong biopic First Man received good marks this week when it landed as the opening-night film at the Venice Film Festival.
Now Chazelle, the film's Oscar-winning director, has responded to critics, saying he chose to reflect parts of Armstrong's life other's didn't know about, and that it was not a political statement.
Here is the Armstrong-Hanson statement:
This story is human and it is universal. Of course, it celebrates an America achievement. It also celebrates an achievement “for all mankind,” as it says on the plaque Neil and Buzz left on the moon. It is a story about an ordinary man who makes profound sacrifices and suffers through intense loss in order to achieve the impossible.
This is why, though there are numerous shots of the American flag on the moon, the filmmakers chose to focus on Neil looking back at the earth, his walk to Little West Crater, his unique, personal experience of completing this journey, a journey that has seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows. He was also an engineer and a pilot, a father and a friend, a man who suffered privately through great tragedies with incredible grace. Although Neil didn’t see himself that way, he was an American hero.

Bradley Cooper’s ‘A Star Is Born’ Headed To Venice After First Hollywood Screening Impresses Exhibitors

The long-gestating unfinished final film of Orson Welles, The Other Side Of The Wind, has also been trying to work out a Venice appearance, but nothing has been firmed as of yet. Fox Searchlight, which saw its The Shape of Water travel all the way from the Lido to the Best Picture Oscar, will be back again this year we hear with director Yorgos Lanthimos' latest The Favourite starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. Netflix funded the completed film (shot originally in the 1970s) and you can probably be assured it will turn up in Telluride, probably as a world premiere, if not Venice also.
It's interesting to see my version, it's interesting to see Judy Garland's (1954) version, you know even go back to 1937 (Janet Gaynor's version). The story works every time." As the nascent awards season takes shape, it feels like Warners is going to be in it big-time with this rebirth that was produced in association with Live Nation Productions and MGM. Buzz has been steadily building  for the film. Even Barbra Streisand, who of course starred in the 1976 version, has offered praise for it since seeing "parts of it" that Cooper showed her. "I'm really proud of him — he did a great job on this film," she told me when we spoke last month. "I think it's a story that works.
As reported yesterday, the upcoming edition of Venice that runs August 29-September 8 is shaping up to be another with a heavy major studio presence for Oscar contenders, with Universal having grabbed the opening-night slot for Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong tale First Man, starring Ryan Gosling as the legendary astronaut who was first to walk on the moon in 1969.
was incredibly divisive in 2017. And, although his Black Swan had taken flight in Venice years before, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Last year was notable for opening film Downsizing, which was well-received locally, not breaking through. To be sure, there have been stumbles.
He returned to the festival in 2012 after being ousted in 2002 when Silvio Berlusconi came to power in Italy. Venice is the world’s oldest film festival and has certainly throughout its history debuted major movies. But its current streak and overall reinvigoration is largely attributed to artistic director Alberto Barbera. He has made nary a misstep since.
Venice launched a market a few years back to muted success; the overlap with Toronto means it’s not a massive hunting ground. However, the agencies and studios regularly send scouts for finished product.
Barbera has previously told me he saw Gravity and Birdman help to “reestablish a sort of international appeal for Venice from the point of view of launching a film." He also laughed at the time, "I don’t think it will transform Venice into a sort of studio department for the marketing of their films."
But the end of summer has taken on a new meaning for Hollywood there as the Venice Film Festival has grown to become the global launchpad for awards contenders. In studio distribution circles, Italy is notoriously difficult to program during the summer.
A Star Is Born is also expected to be listed among TIFF's North American premieres. It should certainly turn out to be one of the hotter, more anticipated titles when Venice formally announces its schedule next Wednesday — a day after we get the first wave of films from the Toronto Film Festival which has its press conference Tuesday.
EXCLUSIVE: Multiple sources tell Deadline that Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born is headed to the Venice Film Festival. Although no one is officially confirming it, we have been told the festival will screen the Warner Bros movie out of competition as a world premiere on Friday, August 31. That will be one of several major awards films to launch in Venice, with the Yorgos Lanthimos-directed The Favourite starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz also on premiering there along with Alfonso Cuaron's Roma and Damien Chazelle's First Man, which opens the festival.
We’ll know his level of satisfaction on the 2018 curation on Wednesday, when the full selection is announced.” /> When Barbera unveiled last year’s roster, he said he was “97% satisfied," but that "all the films that we saw and wanted to have" were there.
While Cannes, for example, grapples with shifts in the business (and is hamstrung by French law), Barbera has zoomed ahead like a vaporetto crossing the Grand Canal. He was the first major festival chief to include Netflix in competition with Beasts of No Nation in 2015 (winning a prize for young star Abraham Attah that year). The event has also been very forward-thinking in a changing landscape. Barbera also has overseen the inclusion of a VR section, the first of its kind. And, before gender parity became the flashpoint for festivals that it has in the past year, Annette Bening was named jury president in 2017 to "break with a long list of male presidents and invite a brilliant, talented and inspiring woman to chair our International competition jury," Barbera said last year.
The film stars Natalie Portman who was last on the Lido with Pablo Larrain’s Jackie, which ultimately scored her an Oscar nomination. Another Venice returnee is expected in Brady Corbet, whose Vox Lux should score a slot. Craig Zahler with Dragged Across Concrete. This year should also see the return of S. A Concrete media opp would see Vaughn in town with his Hacksaw Ridge director Mel Gibson who also stars in the film and premiered the latter in Venice two years ago. His Brawl In Cell Block 99 debuted on the Lido last year with star Vince Vaughn receiving strong notices. Another no-brainer for Venice is Amazon's remake of Suspiria which has strong Italian roots since Dario Argento, director of the 1970 original, and Luca Guadagnino, director of the new version,  are both from Italy.
Chazelle is returning this year after opening it in 2016 with La La Land, and we expect Alfonso Cuaron's Roma (after 2013’s Gravity and heading the jury in 2016) from Netflix to make its world premiere (in addition to its New York Film Festival centerpiece slot, it will also be headed to Telluride we hear, a natural spot to also pay tribute to the director). In a testament to the festival, filmmakers have shown their appreciation for Venice by appearing in return engagements. His amigo Guillermo del Toro won Venice's Golden Lion last year and is back as jury president for the 75th edition this year; Denis Villeneuve, Tom Ford and Terrence Malick have also had more than one film world premiere in the Sala Grande, and Stephen Frears is a regular.
Under Barbera's curation, such films as Gravity, Birdman, La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, Spotlight, Arrival and last year’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water have been key fixtures during awards season and account for three Best Picture Oscar winners among dozens of other statues in myriad categories and from various bodies.
Some have also reaped major box office success. While that may not be entirely attributable to a Venice bow, the Lido does offer a unique media opportunity that churns out indellible images of stars rocking up by boat to the fest’s main dock. Those are gorged on by the consumer press, helping to raise the profile of films and lend an air of accessibility to Venice.
As ever, the first few days of Venice this year can be expected to be frontloaded with the splashier titles which then make their way to Toronto and/or Telluride, hopefully leaving a trail of Oscar buzz behind.
Reaction from top exhibs was through the roof, at least those I heard from. The first screening of the film, which marks Cooper's directorial debut and in which he co-stars with Lady Gaga, was actually held by Warner Bros for exhibitors Wednesday at the state-of-the-art Dolby Screening Room at Hollywood and Vine. Another from a large chain said the film was "fantastic" and noted the sound in the concert scenes made you feel as if you were actually there live. One major theater owner predicted Oscar nominations across the board including Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, and big box office when it opens October 5. He also predicted Oscar buzz for both leads and was particularly impressed by Cooper's singing. Cooper appeared in person at the screening to introduce it.
Although some Venice critics will gripe that the fest has "gone Hollywood," many of the marquee titles have been stories with global elements and/or impact. For example, this year's opener, First Man, is an American tale, but its basis had repercussions for the world.
Del Toro’s Shape of Water is the only recent Golden Lion winner to mirror that success at the Oscars. The highest-profile movies that debut in Venice do not always win local prizes. Gravity was not in competition in its year, raising the hackles of the press corps, while Birdman and Spotlight left the Lido empty-handed.
The annual Lido event is courted by the studios who see gold spun off that Italian resort island. More favorably placed on the calendar than Cannes or Berlin, and running just ahead of Telluride and Toronto, Venice is seen internationally as a key arbiter of movies we’ll be talking about throughout the fall and straight into the Dolby Theatre. The festival’s ability to identify — and score — prestige titles that break beyond the traditional "festival film" label has grown exponentially.