Don Shirley was one of the great classical pianists of all time. After making his debut at the age of 18 with the Boston Pops, in '46 his first major composition was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In '49, he received an invitation from the Haitian government to play for President Estime at the country's grandest concert (the Exposition International du Bi-Centenaire De Port-au-Prince). Upon Arthur Fiedler's invitation, he appeared with the Boston Pops in Chicago in June '54, and Duke Ellington - who became friends with Shirley during the '50s - had them perform together at Carnegie Hall in '55.
During the '60s, Shirley cut albums for Cadence Records and toured with them around the country (after obtaining Doctorates in Music and Psychology at the University of Chicago). This period of time is the main focus of Peter Farrelly's upcoming Green Book, which sees Mahershala Ali portraying the pianist as he travels the Deep South, playing concerts for the area's wealthiest figures (sometimes on former slave plantations). Escorting him through this dangerous journey is Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a former NYC bouncer turned bodyguard who, let's just say, didn't listen to classical music.
Green Book - which was co-written by Vallelonga's real life son, Nick - looks like a pretty typical fish out of water/message movie hybrid, but there's something charming about watching Ali and Mortensen bounce off of one another, even if it's probably going to end up totally corny. Take a look:
Sure, I'd watch that, just for Viggo's "Tony Goombah" accent alone. Will Farrelly - who yes, is the very same one who co-directed all those gross out comedies (like Dumb and Dumber) with his brother Bobby - actually pull off a picture that seems to be aiming for "prestige" drama? Maybe. But if he's gonna try to make the jump, Farrelly's definitely picked two amazing actors to help him.
Green Book will be premiering at the Toronto International Film Fest before hitting theaters right in time for turkey: November 21st.