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Brian Hayes Currie ’83, left, accepts the Academy Award for best original screenplay for "Green Book" with director Peter Farrelly at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on February 24, 2019.

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Middlebury Alumni Take Home Oscars

February 25, 2019

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Middlebury College was well represented at the Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles last night. Two Middlebury alumni were among the lucky few invited to the stage—Brian Currie ’83 for best original screenplay and best picture, and Rodney Rothman ’95 for best animated feature film.

Currie’s evening was the culmination of a very good year. The actor, writer, and producer accepted the award for best original screenplay for the film Green Book, sharing the credit with director Peter Farrelly and writer Nick Vallelonga. He returned to the stage later in the evening for the best picture award. In recent months, Green Book has also picked up a Golden Globe for best screenplay, the Producers Guild of America award for best theatrical motion picture, and the people’s choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Green Book tells the story of Vallelonga’s father, who was known as “Tony Lip,” a bouncer from the Bronx, hired by the African American classical pianist Don Shirley as chauffeur and bodyguard during his concert tour of the Deep South in 1962. The film’s title refers to The Negro Motorist Green-Book, a guide created in 1937 to help black motorists find welcoming restaurants, lodging, and other travel amenities during the Jim Crow era.

Currie first learned about the story from the younger Vallelonga, who was looking for a way to produce his father’s story. Currie was taken with the idea and brought it to his longtime friend, director Peter Farrelly, who is best known for codirecting quirky comedies, including Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something about Mary, with his brother Bobby. Farrelly pitched the idea to Focus Features, which was initially on board but later passed on the project after a management shake-up.

Farrelly persisted, signing Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen, but financing for the film was elusive until Currie’s fellow Middlebury alumnus Ted Virtue ’82 offered to support the film. According to an account in The Hollywood Reporter, Virtue’s offer ultimately proved unnecessary when Participant Media decided to back the film as sole financier. Farrelly thanked Virtue from the stage during his acceptance speech for best original screenplay. The film won three Oscars, including best picture, supporting actor, and original screenplay. It was also nominated for best actor and film editing.

The other writers nominated for best original screenplay were Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara for The Favourite, Paul Schrader for First Reformed, Alfonso Cuarón for Roma, and Adam McKay for Vice.

Rodney Rothman ’95 was among a team of three directors, with Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey, who accepted the Oscar for best animated feature film for Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It was the first time since 2011 that the award was not given to a film by Disney or Pixar.

Rothman, a former head writer for The Late Show with David Letterman who also co-wrote the Spiderman film, offered a note of personal gratitude during his moment at the mic. “On behalf of everyone who made this movie, we want to thank our families, who stayed with us for four years on this,” said Rothman. “This is for you. We love you all.”

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