Nick Vallelonga is the Golden Globe award winning writer of The Green Book, which tells the story of an unlikely friendship that forms between an African American pianist, Donald Shirley, and the Italian-American man, Tony Lip, who toured the Jim Crow-era south together. Lip served as driver and bodyguard for Shirley. The film is set in the deep South, in 1962.
The Green Book has been at the center of controversy ever since its release. The family of Donald Shirley called the film “a symphony of lies” and said they were not consulted about it. But this week, Nick Vallelonga has been making headlines for a different controversy.
The Bronx-born screenwriter got a lot of attention after an old tweet surfaced in which he said that Muslims in New Jersey were “cheering” after the World Trade Center went down on 911. Vallelong deleted his whole Twitter account after the old tweet surfaced, but he has not commented on the recent controversy.
Here’s what you need to know about Nick Vallelonga’s family:
1. The Green Book Is Based on the True Story of Vallelonga’s Father, Tony Lip
Nick Vallelonga is the son of Frank Anthony Vallelonga, who is better known as Tony Lip. Tony Lip was a Bronx native who got his start working as the famed Copacabana nightclub in New York City. Lip went on to work as an actor, appearing in small roles in The Godfather and in Goodfellas. Later he appeared in the HBO hit drama The Sopranos, where he played crime boss Carmine Lupartazzi.
The Green Book, which won Nick Vallelonga a Golden Globe, is based on the true story of a tour Tony Lip once took through the deep south with the pianist Donald Shirley. Nick Vallelonga wrote the film and also appears in it playing Rudy, Tony Lip’s brother. Tony himself is played by Viggo Mortensen. Tony Lip passed away in 2013.
2. Nick’s Younger Brother, Frank, Also Appears in The Green Book, Playing His Own Uncle
Nick Vallelonga cast many of his own family members in The Green Book, which is based on the true story of his father, Tony Lip. In 1962, Lip toured the segregated south along with an African American pianist, Donald Shirley, and The Green Book tells the story of that trip and of the friendship that formed between Lip and Shirley.
Nick cast his younger brother, Frank, as Rudy, Tony Lip’s brother. Frank is a professional actor who has also appeared in ) the 1994 film A Brilliant Disguise the 1995 work In the Kingdom of the Blind, the Man with One Eye Is King.
3. Frank Owns a New Jersey Pizza Place Named After His Father
Tony Lip was famous for his acting — but he was also famous for his love of food. He wrote a cookbook called “Shut Up and Eat” filled with Italian American recipes and stories about great meals from his childhood. That’s the legacy which Frank Vallelonga says he was drawing on when he opened his pizza restaurant and named it after his father. The restaurant, Tony Lip’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza, is located in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey and promises to deliver the taste of old-fashioned Italian American cooking.
The restaurant draws on nostalgia, with its website urging customers to “experience A Taste Of Arthur Avenue And Mulberry Street Italian Cuisine In Franklin Lakes New Jersey! the best italian FARE on this side of Manhattan.”
4. Dolores Vallelonga, Nick’s Mother, Passed Away in 1999
Nick Vallelonga has spoken with great love about his mother, Dolores. He said that one of the most emotional aspects of making “The Green Book” was watching Linda Cardellini, the actress who portrayed Dolores. He said, “I still cry when I see her. It was so emotional. I tell her, “Get away from me. I can’t even look at you.” Looks like my mother, young. Sounds just like my mother.” Dolores passed away in 1999.
5. Nick’s Uncle Rudy Also Appears in The Green Book
Nick Vallelonga’s uncle Rodolpho — better known as Rudy — also appeared in The Green Book, playing Grandpa Nicola Vallelonga. Nick gave a number of interviews in which he stressed the importance of his family in making The Green Book. He said that not only did many of his family members appear in the movie, but that they helped get the actor Viggo Mortensen ready to portray Tony Lip. Nick told Screen Rant that a lot of the preparations revolved around food:
“He [Viggo Mortensen] was eating, and my brother has a Tony Lips, restaurant in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. We ate there. We ate at my brother’s house. We ate at my uncle’s house. His transformation, unbelievable. But he had the audio tapes of my father, video of my father, my father was an actor later in life, so he had all that. So, his transformation is just complete and that is my father. She’s my mother.”