“I remember those days,” says production designer Tim Galvin of the time period portrayed in “Green Book,” so it interested him to “go back down that road a little bit.” Directed by Peter Farrelly, this Universal release tells the true story of how Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a working-class Italian-American bouncer, took a job driving African-American classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on a concert tour through the Jim Crow-era South. Watch our exclusive video interview with Galvin above.
“Green Book” is unique in that it was co-written by the protagonist’s real life son, Nick Vallelonga (in collaboration with Farrelly and Brian Hayes Currie). That first-hand experience proved vital in Galvin’s research, particularly when it came to recreating Tony’s Bronx apartment. “I had to be kind of specific about things with him,” he explains, “because it isn’t the entire life story. Mostly, we wanted to find out about how they lived, where they lived, what his mother’s influence on everything was.” Above all, they wanted to create a space that was “really modest.”
This contrasts greatly with Shirley’s apartment, a mini-palace atop Carnegie Hall filled with artifacts from around the globe. The design for this set “was a little more wide-open,” he reveals. “There was some reference material around, but it was more of an idea of how he lived, [rather] than something that ordinary people could imagine.”
Things take a turn when the two start their journey through the American South, which offered drastically different lodgings to white travelers and black travelers in the 1960s. “That was more of a challenge of illustrating the style of the times,” Galvin says, “because that said more about it than the spaces, in a way.” Because “the real Green Book-type of accommodations were super varied,” the designer “didn’t really have the opportunity to show too much of that,” so he relied on “two places where [Shirley] spends the night” to get the point across.
Galvin previously received an Art Directors Guild nomination for the Netflix series”Bloodline” in 2017. He has also worked on films including “The Spanish Prisoner” (1997), “One Last Dance” (2003), and “The Butler” (2013), as well as TV programs “Prime Suspect” and “The Following.”
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