Green Book co-writer Nick Vallelonga has apologized for a volatile tweet that surfaced last night. Vallelonga, whose father Tony Lip is the principal character played in the film by Viggo Mortensen, wasn’t reachable last night to answer why in 2015 he posted a tweet embracing a debunked Donald Trump narrative that Muslims were seen on New Jersey rooftops celebrating the terror attacks on 9/11.
Participant Media, which produced and co-financed the film and built itself to embrace filmmaking with positive messages, also weighed in in no uncertain terms: “We find Mr. Vallelonga’s Twitter post offensive, dangerous, and antithetical to Participant Media’s values. We reject it in no uncertain terms.”
Here is Vallelonga’s statement:
“I want to apologize. I spent my life trying to bring this story of overcoming differences and finding common ground to the screen, and I am incredibly sorry to everyone associated with Green Book. I especially deeply apologize to the brilliant and kind Mahershala Ali, and all members of the Muslim faith, for the hurt I have caused. I am also sorry to my late father who changed so much from Dr. Shirley’s friendship and I promise this lesson is not lost on me. Green Book is a story about love, acceptance and overcoming barriers, and I will do better.”
Nick Vallelonga, writer/producer, “Green Book”
The tweet by Vallelonga — who shared a Best Screenplay Golden Globe last Sunday with Brian Hayes Currie and director Peter Farrelly — curiously surfaced just as the Oscar nomination ballots were being filled out and right after Green Book established self as a frontrunner in the Oscar race. It was one of several damaging stories to publish in quick succession, and many in Oscar circles spent the day discussing it with most skeptical that this was something organic and not part of the Oscar dirty trickery we have seen in years past.
The Vallelonga tweet is particularly awkward because Globe-winning star Mahershala Ali is Muslim. In fact, the graceful actor two years ago became the first Muslim to win the Best Actor Oscar for his breakout performance in Moonlight. He already was put in an awkward position when the family of the character he played, Dr. Don Shirley, spoke out about the film and decried they were not given input. Ali called them to apologize for that, but neither he, nor this exceptional film, needed this negative attention at such a critical moment in time.
Vallelonga deleted his twitter account yesterday, but after the Oscars lost host Kevin Hart as host after he initially declined to repeat apologies for decade old homophobic tweets, it is beginning to seem remarkable that studios aren’t routinely vetting the social media accounts of stars, directors and writers well in advance.