Raised in Cumberland, the Farrelly Brothers have been cultural icons in Rhode Island ever since the success of their 1994 debut film, “Dumb and Dumber.” Recently, older brother Peter went out on his own to direct, cowrite and coproduce the biographical comedy-drama “Green Book,” released in September.
The film is up for five Oscars — including two that would include Farrelly directly, Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay — at Sunday’s 91st Academy Awards. Despite such hits as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Me, Myself & Irene,” they are his first nominations.
We talked about the use of Rhode Island in some of his most successful films with his brother, bringing the story of the Green Book to life, how Providence’s culture influenced one of the characters, and his plans for the near future.
Q: You and your brother Bobby have used Rhode Island as a setting in a bunch of your films. Was it always a goal of yours to include Rhode Island?
A: Rhode Island is a huge inspiration for us. We’ve been asked a lot over the years about which movies have inspired us, where we get our sense of humor and that kind of stuff. To be honest, it wasn’t so much movies. It was our friends in Cumberland and those guys were funny bastards. Rhode Island is extremely important to us. Knock on wood, if we win anything at the Academy Awards, I will be thanking the entire state of Rhode Island.
Q: “Green Book” is your first film nominated for an Academy Award. The film is a true story about African-American musician Don Shirley and his Italian-American bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga, in the deep South during the early 1960s. What made you bring this story to the big screen?
A: When I heard the story, it was told to me by a guy named Bryan Hayes Currie, who cowrote and coproduced the film with me, with Nick Vallelonga. I saw how the story resonated with today and with what’s going on in our country and I thought that it was a story worth telling.
Also, I understood Tony Vallelonga because of growing up in Rhode Island. I went to La Salle Academy in Providence and I know those Italian guys. Those Providence Italian guys and Tony Vallelonga are pretty much interchangeable. I knew the accent and I know how they think, and I felt like I could include that into the film.
Q: Do you feel any vindication in finally getting nominated?
A: Not really. I’ve never felt that we weren’t treated well. We’ve been making movies for 25 years, and that’s what I set out to do when I got to Hollywood to get into the film business. I’m just grateful and, honestly, I’ve never felt that we weren’t being treated properly.
It’s nice to be nominated but it was also nice before, so I’m not going to be a sourpuss complaining about what’s happened up to now.
Q: After the Oscars, what do you have planned next?
A: Well, my brother and I have a TV show called “Loudermilk” and it stars Ron Livingston and Will Sasso. We’re in the third year of that — it’s a little show on the Audience Network.
We’ve been winding up episodes with that, and I’m thinking of making another movie within the next six to nine months. It’s too complicated to explain, and I will be doing another movie, but first we’re going to finish up this season of “Loudermilk.”