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"Green Book" producers Jim Burke, Charles Wessler, Nick Vallelonga, Peter Farrelly and Brian Hayes Currie pose backstage with their Best Picture statues at the 91st Academy Awards. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

‘Green Book’ producers thrilled by best picture win, downplay controversy

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While hailed as a tribute to racial tolerance by its makers and stars, “Green Book” was also widely criticized as an outdated, sentimentalized movie full of racial stereotypes.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

“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.

Associated Press writer Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

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