Soon after the film was released, members of Shirley’s family came forward saying that the film was “full of lies” with the American classical pianist’s niece Carol Shirley Kimble saying that “There was no due diligence done to afford my family and my deceased uncle the respect of properly representing him, his legacy, his worth and the excellence in which he operated and the excellence in which he lived. It’s once again a depiction of a white man’s version of a Black man’s life.”
“The Don Shirley family thing falls on me but Don Shirley himself told me not to speak to anyone. he told me the story that he wanted to tell, he protected his private life and all other things about him, miraculous things about him,’ said Vallelonga.
“He told me if you’re going to tell the story, tell it from your father, me, don’t speak to anyone else, that’s how you have to make it,” added Vallelonga.
“I kept my word to that man, I wish I could reach out to Don Shirley’s family, I really didn’t know they existed until we finished the film,” added the screenwriter.
Vallelonga called Shirley “a stand-up guy” and going against his wishes, wasn’t part of the screenwriter’s beliefs.
“Don Shirley and my father together had an amazing story and that’s where the film comes from,” said Vallelonga.