Inside the true story behind Golden Globes darling 'Green Book'

PHOTO: Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley and Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga in "Green Book," directed by Peter Farrelly.PlayPatti Perret/Universal Pictures
WATCH Viggo Mortensen talks starring along Mahershala Ali in the 'Green Book'

Numerous films walked away with a coveted Golden Globe Sunday night, but one film stood out above all else.

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"Green Book" won three awards -- for Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical.

While accepting the award for screenplay, Nick Vallelonga -- whose real-life father is played by Viggo Mortensen in the film -- said, "My father blessed us with this story ... This is surreal."

If you're not familiar with "Green Book," here's what you need to know.

It's based on a true story

As co-writer Vallelonga said, Mortensen played Tony 'Lip' Vallelonga, his father, and Linda Cardellini played his mother in the film.

"I can't even look at her. She played my mom. She makes me cry every time I see her," he said of Cardellini while accepting the award.

Mahershala Ali, who also took home a Globe Sunday night, plays Dr. Don Shirley, whom Lip drives and protects in the film.

While accepting his Globe last night, Ali thanked Shirley for his "passion, his virtuosity and the dignity he carried himself with that inspired me every day."

The film is set in the Deep South in the 1960s as Shirley, one of the world's greatest pianists and musicians, embarks on an eight-week tour.

Lip is a bouncer and bodyguard, while Shirley is a highly-educated artist, but the two backgrounds for these men disappear as a strong bond forms during this trip.

PHOTO: Nick Vallelonga accepts the award for best screenplay for Green Book during the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif.Paul Drinkwater/NBC via AP
Nick Vallelonga accepts the award for best screenplay for "Green Book" during the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The meaning behind the name 'Green Book'

The meaning behind the title of this film is simple: A green book was a guide meant to keep blacks safe as they traveled through the South before the civil rights movement.

But while there were seemingly safe places for those like Shirley to stay in the South, Lip witnesses just how terribly the accomplished legend is treated, simply because of the color of his skin.

The juxtaposition of the two men, their differing backgrounds and more open the eyes of Lip to what life was like for Shirley, no matter how famous he was.

A special bond

In the film, a true bond of friendship and brotherhood forms between Lip and Shirley, both helping the other to grow.

Shirley helps Lip write eloquent letters to his wife and kids, while Tony tries to get the accomplished musician to come to terms with who he really is and reconnect with his family.

PHOTO: Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley in Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly.Patti Perret/Universal Pictures
Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley in "Green Book," directed by Peter Farrelly.

Last year, Vallelonga told Time magazine that everything in the film happened in real life and through real moments his father felt and experienced during this two-month journey with Shirley.

“I wanted the feelings to come from the truth because the story is so amazing that the truth is enough,” he told the magazine. “It’s about the two guys in the car. It’s really about their relationship, and what they were going through during this horrendous time in our history."

'Wait until I pass'

The friendship lasted for years until both the men died in 2013. In fact, Vallelonga said Shirley gave his father his blessing to make a film about their friendship, but only after the musician had passed.

"You tell exactly the truth, but you’re going to wait until I pass," Vallelonga said Shirley told him.

One reason the scribe thinks he might have wanted the family to wait on the film until after his death was because of his sexuality. Though Shirley never spoke about his orientation, the film does show him in the embrace of a man in one scene.

PHOTO: Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley in Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly.Universal Pictures
Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley in "Green Book," directed by Peter Farrelly.

"He never came out that he was gay. It was never spoken of,” the award-winning scribe told Time.

“I think he was on his own sort of island ... He was just by himself," he added about the discrimination he faced for multiple reasons in the 1960s.

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