Watching the Oscars, I was thrilled to see that “Green Book” won for “best picture” and that it grabbed the gold for the “best screenplay” and “best supporting actor.” All well-deserved, although I’d say Viggo should’ve won over Rami Malek wearing a fake mustache to play Freddie Mercury. That’s an argument for another day, though.
Just make sure you go out and see “Green Book” at the theatres while you still can, and thank me later.
What was thrilling about “Green Book” being my favorite movie of the year is, I ended up being lucky enough to get the DVD of it autographed by the cast. It was after I went to a movie screening and afterparty for the film. My wife was initially reluctant about making the two hour drive to L.A., but she knew two things about me. I love autographed items and I loved this movie.
I’ve driven up to L.A. only a handful of times to meet a star I admired. Paul McCartney was one. Patti Smith was another (find her album “Horses” it’s amazing). There was a CD signing with Lou Reed I also went to. Probably a few more I’m forgetting about, but it’s never for movie stars. But to get this cast, I would’ve driven to New York for.
We hit a bit of traffic, but got there in just under three hours. We pulled up to the ritzy hotel on the Sunset Strip. We parked the car and went in.
We were handed a glass of wine at the door and walked over to the terrace area. What a gorgeous view of the City of Lights.
There were lots of appetizers, and hey...even though I’m there to get this amazing cast to sign my DVD, why not grab a bite.
I immediately said to my wife, as we were walking to a table, “That’s Oleg!”
She said, “Who is Oleg?”
I said, “The cello player from Green Book.”
We walked over to actor Dimiter Marinov, and my wife said, “So we have to know...are you German or Russian?”
He replied, “Actually, neither. I’m Bulgarian.”
I talked about driving up from San Diego, only to find that he too, lives in our area. I asked if he had to learn to play the cello and he said, “Yes. I’m a classically trained violinist. I only had five days to learn the cello.”
He was the first person that signed my DVD. He wrote his character name with the signature, and “Thanks.”
At the bar, we saw Nick Vallelonga. He was a cast member of “The Sopranos” and he co-wrote Green Book (and has a great scene giving a veiled threat to Viggo Mortensen). The film, for those of you that still haven’t seen it -- is based on his father’s experience driving musician Dr. Don Shirley around the deep south for a tour in the early ‘60s.
I told him the commercials made me think I wouldn’t like it. I thought it was going to be another “Driving Miss Daisy,” but this was a thousand times better. He laughed and said, “I was working on this story when I was 15, and then “Driving Miss Daisy” came out. I immediately thought...oh no, everyone is going to say my story is like theirs, but...this is my dad’s story and it really happened. So I just kept plugging away.”
We talked for a few more minutes, and then I asked if he’d sign my DVD. He said, “I’d be glad to.”
We grabbed a salad and lamb chops, and sat down at a table. I was a few bites into my dinner when director Peter Farrelly walked in. Most know him for directing crazy comedies like Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin, and Stuck on You. Those all involved his brother, but Peter went at this alone, and with amazing results.
As I walked up I said, “I’m a movie critic from San Diego, and your movie is the best thing I’ve seen all year. And I’ve seen everything.”
My wife added, “He never gives anything 5 stars and he gave your film five stars.”
He looked at me and said, “Thank you so much. Can we spend the weekend together? Can I give you a hug?”
We hugged, and then talked about his movie.
I asked if he’d sign my DVD and he said, “Sure. And I sign my name so you can actually read it.”
(photo: Josh Board with director Peter Farrelly)
When Mahershala Ali walked in (he won the Oscar for “Moonlight”, and would win the Oscar for this), someone wanted to take a picture of them together.
There were a few different people that were waiting to take a selfie or ask a question of Ali. I stayed back aways, because I don’t like to be pushy when it comes to autographs. It turns off the celebrity, as well as all the people around you. When we got to talk to him after a few minutes waiting, my wife brought up her favorite scene in the movie. They both had a slightly different interpretation of it, which made me laugh. Since he talked to her for so long, I didn’t want to bother him with a question. I merely said, “Can you sign this?”
He said, “Absolutely.”
Actor Joe Cortese came over and I said, “I have a question for you. Did they let you keep the hat from the movie?”
(for those that haven’t seen it, he’s a mobster that has his hat stolen and is going to kill the person that took it).
He grabbed my arm and said, “I have a story about that hat! We shot that scene and wrapped at around 2 a.m. I went back to the hotel and I was sleeping. At 6 a.m. I get a knock on the door and open it up. Viggo, Peter and the guys are all there. They have the hat. They said, ‘What’s right is right. This is your hat.’ And they gave it to me.”
I enjoyed Cortese’s performance in “American History X” (Edward Norton), and he brought up his first movie, which was also Joe Pesci’s first film. It’s called “The Death Collector”, and he said Quentin Tarantino’s movie theatre was going to be showing it, adding “It’s one of his favorite movies of all time.”
I started freaking out when I saw the guy standing next to Cortese the whole time we were talking. It was Sebastian Maniscalco, who is one of the best stand-up comedians working today. I’ve seen him perform live a few times, and told him that. My wife started telling him how much she loves his bit about people no longer being excited when the doorbell rings, the way they were in the old days. He probably thought we were nuts showering him with praise, but he’s just so damn funny. Anyway, I got him to sign the DVD as well.
He had a number of scenes in the movie, as the brother-in-law to Viggo. He takes him to a dinner to help him win a $50 bet in a hot dog eating contest, as well as a few funny moments at various family dinners.
Since he signed the DVD, I was going to head to the bar for another drink and look for another cast member. But, nobody was coming over to talk to Maniscalco, so we decided to keep talking to him. I told him that he was funny in his scene in “The House” (Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler). I asked if his scene was what replaced the scene where they had original set to use Mariah Carey, who was dropped from the movie after some diva behavior. He said, “Yeah, I heard about that, but...I don’t know. I’m not sure if my scene was the one that replaced it or they were going to use both. I just got called to do the scene and did it”
(for those that don’t know what that’s all about, Ferrell has financial problems and turns a regular house into a casino; Maniscalco played a comedian doing stand-up in one of the side rooms).
Desserts were being handed out, and I scarfed three chocolate chip cookies. They pair nicely with red wine, if you ever have the opportunity.
Viggo never showed up at this event, but I was lucky enough to be somewhere later and got him to sign it. Actually, it was my wife. She went up to him and said, “My husband will be forever grateful if you sign this DVD for him.”
He smiled and said, “What’s his name?”
She responded, “Josh. But, your name is so long, that you might not have room to write that on there, so you don’t have to.”
He personalized it, and I told my wife later that some stars like doing that, because it means an ebay seller can’t just turn around and auction it off.
My wife didn’t realize the actress that played his wife in the movie, Linda Cardellini (from ER), was sitting next to him. He slide it over to her with the Sharpie and she signed it, too. Not sure how, with all those signatures, Viggo knew she hadn’t signed it.
The DVD of my favorite movie of the year, was now signed by the cast.
Completing a set of signatures on something has never been so easy, and never more rewarding, since this was my favorite movie of the year.