“Green Book” writer and producer Nick Vallelonga has been a staple on the awards circuit this Oscar season, earning screenplay nominations from the Golden Globes, the Writers Guild of America, and the Critics’ Choice Awards, but, in the wake of awards buzz, a controversial social media post published by Vallelonga in 2015 has resurfaced online. Vallelonga is the son of Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, the character played by Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book.”
Back in November 2015, Vallelonga replied to Donald Trump on Twitter corroborating a story in which Trump alleged he saw people cheering in Jersey City, New Jersey on September 11, 2001 as they watched the attacks on the Twin Towers. As Trump said at a rally (via The Washington Post), “I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”
Vallelonga replied to Trump, “100% correct. Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down. I saw it, as you did, possibly on local CBS news.”
When asked for comment, a Vallelonga representative replied over email: “The twitter account has been deleted… not sure if any comment is actually needed here.” IndieWire has also reached out to Universal Pictures for further comment.
Trump elaborated on the story during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on the November 22, 2015 edition of ABC’s “This Week,” saying, “There were people that 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. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”
Trump’s story was disputed by major publications such as The Washington Post and New York Magazine. In a September 2017 article published by New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, writer Olivia Nuzzi called Trump’s story a “false claim.” Trump tried to prove the story was true when he tweeted a September 18, 2011 report from The Washington Post that said Jersey City law enforcement “detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks,” but the report made no mention that thousands of Muslims and/or Arabs were celebrating the attacks.
Vallelonga has promoted how “Green Book” breaks down racial barriers and talks honestly about racism in interviews throughout awards season, most recently telling Variety, “The film is about people coming together, it’s about love.” Vallelonga’s tweet had been live on his Twitter feed since November 2015, but was deleted shortly after 7pm ET on January 9, 2019 as it resurfaced on social media. Vallelonga then deleted his entire Twitter account.
Bolstered by its 2019 Golden Globes win for Best Comedy or Musical, “Green Book” is a top contender for this year’s Best Picture Oscar. However, Vallelonga’s controversial tweet is the latest hiccup faced by its awards campaign. The movie has come under fire from the family of Dr. Don Shirley, played by Golden Globes winner Mahershala Ali in the film, who allege the film is a “symphony of lies” and manipulates the relationship between Shirley and Frank Vallelonga.
On the same day that Vallelonga deactivated his account, Universal hosted a press event in New York in which friends of the late Shirley spoke of their love for the film. Said musician and Shirley godson Dr. Muhammad Hatim: “The acting, the interaction, was just so moving for me, to see the spirit of Dr. Shirley was captured in such a magnificent way, I just wanted to thank everybody for that.”