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It's Mahershala Ali vs. Viggo Mortensen in this exclusive 'Green Book' scene

Ethan Alter
·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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Viggo Mortensen chews the scenery — with extra relish — in Peter Farrelly’s crowd-pleasing period comedy Green Book. But that’s only appropriate since he’s playing a character with an enormous appetite. The breakout hit of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the Oscar-foreshadowing People’s Choice Award, Green Book tells the true story of New York City tough guy Frank Anthony Vallelonga, better known as Tony Lip (Mortensen), who got behind the wheel to drive renowned African-American pianist Don Shirley (Moonlight Oscar winner Mahershala Ali) on a tour of the Deep South in the early 1960s. Along the way, their initially frosty relationship thaws as they share moments, memories, and meals … like the one in this exclusive clip. (Watch the clip above.)

This scene highlights one of the chief pleasures of Green Book: the charged comic and dramatic chemistry between its two stars. In real life, Vallelonga and Shirley went on to be lifelong friends, but when we meet them in the film, they regard each other through the lens of the class and racial prejudices of the time. For his part, Tony looks at Don and sees a humorless elitist. Meanwhile, Don looks at Tony and sees a boor with a limited vocabulary for the food he wolfs down, as well as a penchant for off-color jokes about rude things that rhyme with Pittsburgh.

It’s only via their shared experience on the road — one that takes them through a region of the country where segregation is strictly enforced (the title refers to the guidebooks black travelers would have to use when visiting the pre-civil rights South) — that they learn to see each other as people. “It’s basically a movie about different kinds of people getting along,” Mortensen remarked at the Toronto Film Festival in September. “That maybe didn’t set out to get to know each other, but they do by virtue of spending time together.”

Despite the acclaim — and likely Oscar nomination — that Green Book has brought Mortensen, the actor confessed to the festival press corps that he was nervous about portraying a big-talking, big-eating Italian-American when Farrelly first approached him with the script, which was co-written by Tony’s son, Nick. Fortunately, the younger Vallelonga immediately noted a resemblance between Mortensen and his old man. “As soon as they saw me eat, they were sold apparently.”

Green Book opens in theaters on Nov. 21. Watch the trailer:

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