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‘Green Book’ producers thrilled by win, downplay controversy

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HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: (L-R) Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Nick Vallelonga, Peter Farrelly, and Brian Currie, winners of Best Picture for 'Green Book,' pose in the press room during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES — Members of the team behind “Green Book” were amazed and thrilled it was crowned best picture at the Academy Awards despite the controversy that has dogged the segregation-era road-trip drama.

Co-writers and producers Nick Vallelonga and Brian Currie told The Associated Press at the Governors Ball following Sunday’s awards that it was an honor to win in a year with so many great films.

“Green Book” tells the story of a white man who becomes friends with the black musician he drives through the 1960s South for a concert tour. The name is derived from a publication that helped African-Americans find establishments that would serve them in the segregated South.

“You have guys who are so diverse. They’re not just racially diverse, economically diverse, educationally diverse,” Currie said. “All of that makes for great characters. They had seemly nothing in common, and they found common ground to survive this trip.”

While hailed as a tribute to racial tolerance by its makers and stars, “Green Book” was also widely criticized as an outdated, sentimentalized movie full of racial stereotypes.

Some of the musician’s relatives took issue with the story’s accuracy.

“We know what the truth is,” Vallelonga said. “We know how hard we tried to respect everyone involved and just tell the best story we could.”

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 24: Spike Lee, winner of Adapted Screenplay for ”BlacKkKlansman’, attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 24, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

“BlacKkKlansman” director Spike Lee was visibly angry when the best picture Oscar went to “Green Book.” Seated in the audience, Lee waved his hands in disgust and appeared to try to walk out of the Dolby Theatre. He made his way back to his seat and later backstage compared the best film selection to a loss by his beloved New York Knicks basketball team. He joked, “The ref made the wrong call.”

“BlacKkKlansman” was also nominated for best picture. Lee won best adapted screenplay, his first competitive Oscar.

“We have all the respect in the world for the guy,” Currie said.

“Green Book” also won best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali, as well as best original screenplay.

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