The late Dr. Donald Shirley was one of the world’s top classical pianists, and his life was depicted in the film Green Book starring Mahershala Ali in the lead role. According to Shirley’s family, the story told to audiences was largely inaccurate with one family calling the film a “symphony of lies” and Ali apologized for his hand in the film.
Shadow and Act reports:
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Maurice and his niece Carol Shirley Kimble, both gave statements to NPR’s 1A radio show expressing their discontent with the film.
That same day, Maurice and Edwin both received phone calls from Ali.
“I got a call from Mahershala Ali, a very, very respectful phone call, from him personally. He called me and my Uncle Maurice in which he apologized profusely if there had been any offense,” said Edwin. “What he said was, ‘If I have offended you, I am so, so terribly sorry. 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.’”
Ali did not offer a statement to Shadow And Act for this story.
Though Edwin appreciated Ali’s apology and felt it was sincere, just the night before the NPR show aired, Nick Vallelonga was on NBC Nightly News still insisting, “everything in the film is true,” without getting so much as a follow-up question.
The entire Shadow and Act piece details the Shirley family’s disdain overall with the film, including the trumped-up relationship between Shirley and his Italian driver Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen. Read it here.