Frank Vallelonga Jr., who starred in Oscar-winning film Green Book and whose father was the basis of the movie, has died aged 60.
The 2018 film focused on a tour of the Deep South by African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his driver – Vallelonga Jr.’s father – Frank ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen).
According to Variety, Vallelonga Jr. was found unconscious and unresponsive in the Bronx in New York City following a call to the NYPD last Monday (November 28) at 4am. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The site reports that a 35-year-old man called Steven Smith has been arrested on charges of concealment of a human corpse. The force said that investigation surrounding the death of Vallelonga Jr.’s death is ongoing and a medical examiner will determine the cause of his death.
Vallelonga Jr played the role of his real-life uncle Rudy Vallelonga in Green Book, and has also appeared in roles in The Birthday Cake and The Neighborhood.
His father Tony Lip was also an actor, famously playing the role of Carmine Lupertazzi The Sopranos, Philip Giaccone in Donnie Brasco, and Francesco Manzo in Goodfellas.
Green Book won three Academy Awards in 2019, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Ali.
The film’s win for Best Picture caused some backlash at the time, with director Spike Lee reportedly seen storming out of the Oscars ceremony when the film beat his own BlackKklansman. Speaking to the press after the ceremony, Lee said “the ref made a bad call” in relation to the film being awarded the night’s biggest prize.
Speaking to NME back in 2020, Mortensen defended Green Book, saying: “I feel it’s more timely than ever – a movie that will only grow in importance.
“The controversy [of telling a story about Black struggles through a white lens] that was created on the Internet by a very small minority of bloggers and some film critics was unjustified, I felt. It wasn’t made with the benefit of proper research.
“They tried to damage the reputation and, in some quarters, Green Book has almost become a pejorative adjective: ‘Is this movie going to be the Green Book of…’ as if it’s a bad thing to be in any way associated with that film. I felt at the time, and I still feel, that will fade away and the film is going to hold up for a long time as a classic movie.”