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Golden Globe-winning writer deletes his Twitter after anti-Muslim tweet resurfaces

Green Book, a film exploring racism in the US Deep South in the 1960s, has been dogged by controversy since it was released

'Green Book' screenwriter Nick Vallelonga has been under fire for an old anti-Muslim tweet that has resurfaced since he won a Golden Globe. Reuters 
'Green Book' screenwriter Nick Vallelonga has been under fire for an old anti-Muslim tweet that has resurfaced since he won a Golden Globe. Reuters 

It has divided critics, with some claiming the drama explores America’s racial divide with a heavy-handed application of Hollywood gloss – but Golden Globes judging members certainly found much to like in Green Book. The Peter Farrelly-directed film walked away with three trophies following Sunday’s ceremony: best comedy or musical, a best supporting actor win for Mahershala Ali, and best screenplay.

However, the latter accolade has been overshadowed after a controversial tweet from screenwriter Nick Vallelonga was unearthed, causing the writer and producer to subsequently delete his social media account. In a message posted on the platform in November 2015, Vallelonga expressed support for a debunked conspiracy theory that members of the Muslim community were witnessed celebrating in the immediate wake of 9/11.

This image released by NBC shows Nick Vallelonga accepting the award for best screenplay for "Green Book" during the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Paul Drinkwater/NBC via AP)
Nick Vallelonga accepting the award for best screenplay for 'Green Book' during the 76th Golden Globe. Paul Drinkwater / NBC via AP

“Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down. I saw it, as you did, possibly on local CBS news,” the writer responded to then-US presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump had stated at a rally that month that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down”. He continued to stand by his comments following subsequent criticism, telling ABC’s This Week co-anchor George Stephanopoulos days later: “There were people who were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.”

After resurfacing this week, Vallelonga’s tweet supporting Trump’s claims was widely derided on social media, with La La Land’s Jordan Horowitz among those expressing his anger. “Nick Vallelonga wrote Green Book. My industry just gave him a Golden Globe for writing. This remains on his timeline,” the American producer posted on Twitter. “Mahershala Ali is a Muslim, and a beautiful, generous and kind man. This is all just too disgusting.”

A representative for Vallelonga confirmed to IndieWire that the writer’s Twitter account had since been deleted, adding, “not sure if any comment is actually needed here”.

This is not the first controversy to mire the part road-trip movie, part drama, which is based on the experience of Vallelonga’s own father, commonly known as Tony Lip. The actor and writer, played by Viggo Mortensen in Green Book, acted as a chauffeur for pianist Dr Donald Shirley - portrayed by Oscar-winner Ali - during the musician’s 1962 tour of America’s Deep South.

The film has been condemned by members of the late Dr Shirley’s family, who told Shadow and Act last year that they were not “consulted or even contacted at any point during the writing or production”.

The concert pianist’s nephew, Edwin Shirley III, said he found the film “rather jarring” while Dr Shirley’s brother, Maurice, described the depiction of the musician as “a symphony of lies”.

Backstage at the Golden Globes, Moonlight star Ali addressed the controversy, telling reporters he hoped to “move on” from the issue as he paid his respects to Dr Shirley’s family. “I will say that my job is always the same and I have to look at what I’m responsible for doing and all the prayers, the energy, the time, the work,” the actor said. “I am not one who is going to necessarily throw all that away over things I had no control over and had nothing to do with.”

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Updated: January 10, 2019 03:51 PM

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