EXCLUSIVE: Nick Vallelonga, who co-wrote Green Book with Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly, has set his next film. Vallelonga will direct his script That’s Amore!, and he will produce it with Gene Kirkwood.
There is symmetry in the project. Vallelonga based Green Book on testimony he drew from his father, Tony Lip Vallelonga, and Dr. Don Shirley about their 1962 road trip through the Deep South, and then he honored the wish of the latter that no attempt be made to turn it into a film until both men were dead. Tony Lip, who is played by Viggo Mortensen in the film, got to know Kirkwood when he played a small role in The Pope of Greenwich Village, which Kirkwood produced. It was one of many great New York-based films where Lip logged screen time, with The Godfather and Goodfellas ranking among the others, along with a recurring role as a mob boss in The Sopranos.
Vallelonga waited years to direct Green Book, but turned it over to Farrelly, who drew in Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as the two leads in what has become an awards-season front-runner for Universal Pictures after it received the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, followed by a stream of accolades that have included Best Picture by AFI and the National Board of Review, and five Golden Globe nominations.
That’s Amore! is a musical romantic comedy about a 40-year-old bachelor who thinks his best years are behind him and who is resigned to working in his family’s pizza restaurant. That is, until he meets Patti Amore, a shy and introverted loner with an overprotective father and a dark secret in her past. The two emotionally damaged people enter into a relationship.
Financing is in place from private sources, said Vallelonga and Kirkwood, who said the music-infused project could down the line be mounted for the stage.
“I met Nick when his father, Tony Lip, acted in The Pope of Greenwich Village,” said Kirkwood. “I hadn’t seen him in years until I ran into him recently and he told me this story. I read the script and felt like going out to get a veal parmigiana sandwich.”
Said Vallelonga: “The basic story – a love story about people who can’t find love – has been in my head for years, but I finally finished the screenplay during breaks in the Green Book production. I’m honored to be working with Gene Kirkwood, the godfather of producers, who recently produced the Grammy-winning documentary The Defiant Ones about Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. That connection to the current music scene will be put to good use with That’s Amore!”
They said the romantic comedy is inspired by films like Marty, Moonstruck and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. They plan a production start in New York and New Jersey next year, and they have begun casting the film.