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Team 'Green Book' on all the 'Driving Miss Daisy' comparisons: 'We were not thinking that'

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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  • Viggo Mortensen
    Viggo Mortensen
    American actor
  • Mahershala Ali
    Mahershala Ali
    American actor

The Peter Farrelly-directed comic drama Green Book has been racking up strong reviews and a nice dose of Oscar buzz since premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the audience prize. Just as steady have been comparisons to another film: the 1989 hit Driving Miss Daisy.

Daisy, you’ll recall, followed the heartwarming story of an elderly Jewish woman (Jessica Tandy) who develops a strong bond with her African-American chauffeur (Morgan Freeman) in the Deep South, as the Jim Crow era gives way to the civil rights movement. With racial roles reversed, Green Book pairs a black piano virtuoso (Mahershala Ali), who enlists an Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) to drive him around the Deep South, smack-dab in the middle of Jim Crow.

“We were not thinking that, but I could see why you would compare it to that,” Farrelly told Yahoo Entertainment at the film’s Los Angeles press day (watch above). “I love that movie. But we weren’t thinking, ‘Hey, let’s make that kind of movie.’ That’s not how it happened. It happened because it’s a true story that was brought to me, and I was like, ‘Wow!'”

Farrelly, best known for co-directing beloved broad comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, alongside his brother Bobby, saw the story more as a classic “odd couple” tale. (Although the director could also have been making a direct reference to The Odd Couple, the 1968 comedy starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau). “Black concert pianist [with] three doctorates and a sixth grade-educated bouncer, stuck together in a car. There was a lot of laughs to that,” he said.

While the endless comparisons probably feel irksome to the director (try finding a review that doesn’t mention Daisy), we’re guessing he wouldn’t mind the same fate for his film: Daisy was the eighth highest-grossing movie of 1989, and went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Pundits are predicting the crowd-pleasing Green Book could be a similar force at the Oscars, especially with Academy membership still skewing older.

Though it’s recently been dragged by a controversy surrounding Mortensen’s matter-of-fact usage of the N-word during a post-screening Q&A, Green Book could also prove cathartic at a time when race relations in the United States seem to be regressing.

“I think Green Book is an offering amongst many things, many parts of the culture, many pieces of art, pieces of content, that all have to in some ways be an offering towards hope, towards what we aspire to be as a country, as a world,” Ali (Moonlight, Luke Cage) said. “Green Book is one of what has to be many contributions, it’s not the fix for all things, I think we’d be foolish to try to say that this is what’s going to solve anything. But we definitely know that it’s something that is an offering that can open up a conversation.”

Added Farrelly: “The great thing about this movie is we’re not preaching to one side or the other. We’re preaching to all of humanity, and recognizing no matter how far over here or over [there] you are, we’re all human beings. And if you cut down the walls and all the bologna in between, you realize that we have a lot in common. And that’s what these guys did.”

Green Book is now playing in select cities.

Watch Viggo Mortensen talk about gaining 45 pounds for the role:


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