Green Book Trailer

Were there any great Tony Lip stories you had to leave out, besides the third chicken scene?

Yeah, there were a ton of them because it took place over a year. One of the big ones, and we had it in the script early on, was that this trip went all the way up to when JFK got assassinated the following year. He told the story about how they were sitting at a bar somewhere and they saw everybody in the lobby looking at a TV. Dr. Shirley said, “What’s going on over there?” Tony Lip went over to check it out and he sits back down, this is Tony Lip telling the story by the way, “I said, ‘I don’t know. Some president got shot.’” That’s his reaction to it. He’s not even getting what’s going on over there. We actually had that in there and the truth is they ended up going to JFK’s funeral. Ultimately it felt like that’s another movie and it really throws the balance off of what we’re telling here. This is a story about these two guys. By putting that in, it became way too Kennedy centric.

Was there more than one gig he refused to play because of the poor treatment he was receiving?

I think there were. I think there were a couple. I can’t remember offhand. I do believe there were a couple.

Did they have other adventures together after this year on the road?

They went for a year and three months. Then a year or two later, Dr. Shirley invited Tony to go to Europe with him. He was doing a European trip but Dolores put her foot down and said, “No, you’re not going to Europe.” That was the end of it but they stayed friends. Occasionally, when Nick was a kid, he would go to Dr. Shirley’s apartment with Tony. He said always when they went over there, Dr. Shirley would call him up and say, “Hey, Tony, come over here.” They’d go over, he’d bring the kids and he’d say, “Listen, I need you to do something for me.” It was basically get me out of this ticket or do this or that. He knew Tony had connections.

Did Tony say much on those tapes about Dolores?

Well, he talked about her. In fact, on the tapes, she’s in the background. We hear her talking. He’s telling the stories and she’s like, “Tony, tell him about the so and so. Tony, tell him about this, tell him about that.” What we really knew about Dolores, besides the fact that it was Nick’s mother and he knows everything about her, is that we had 67 letters from that trip. They were long letters. They were detailed letters, so we learned a lot about how Tony felt for her, but also how he felt for Doc Shirley and what he felt for him was something akin to love. Respect. He loved that guy and respected him. He would say things in these audio tapes, he goes, “I really like Dr. Shirley. He was a great man to me because he was always trying to make me smart. He was just always trying to make me smart and I appreciated that so much.” He would tell stories about him teaching him manners. He said, “One time we pulled up and I asked this guy, I said, ‘Pittsburgh?’ He goes, ‘Five miles, get off at the exit.’ Dr. Shirley said, ‘Don’t say Pittsburgh. Say, “Excuse me. Could you please tell us how to get to Pittsburgh?”’ I go, ‘Why? The guy knew what I was talking about? Why am I gonna waste words?’” There were tons of things like that that we didn’t use but could have that were really interesting. Then we also had tapes of Dr. Shirley, by the way, talking about Lip and how much he needed him and depended on him. He said, “Look, my life was in this guy’s hands. I had to put up with him and I had to learn to get along with him because I needed him.”

Was Dolores more tolerant than Tony?

Yes, yes, she was. Tony was, like a lot of guys from that era in New York and all over the place, in an Italian community, he would drop N bombs and F bombs and stuff like that. She frowned upon that. She was religious and she didn’t like using that kind of language. She would never let her kids use that language but Tony came from the hood and that’s what he did, so yes, she was definitely aware and conscious of not wanting her kids to be that way.

Did you have any of the letters that Dr. Shirley helped him write to her?

We have all the letters. We have 67 letters and you can see them evolve. They started off like “Hi. How are you? I’m good. Bye.” Basically like cave man to something that got pretty damn good. It’s not quite as elegant as we put in the [movie] but he pointed out in his audio tapes where we was learning. You could see him get better. Shirley was smart enough not to make it too obvious but he definitely helped him. Even with punctuation and stuff like that, you could just see it improve, and spelling and all those things as it goes on.

What’s next for you, back to comedy or more drama?

Honestly, I’m not even sure. I try to be true to what is in my heart. I have some ideas but I’m not exactly sure. What I don’t want to do is just jump into something because it seems like a good thing. I’m getting a lot of offers and there’s a lot of things that seem appealing and then I think, “Really, what do I bring to that? What can I possibly bring to that?” I’ve been passing on a lot of stuff so I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do next.

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