‘Green Book’ Producer Says Film Was Aimed at Older White Audiences

“Occasionally you need to make a movie that is directed at older white people,” Participant Media’s Jonathan King says

Green Book Mahershala Ali
Courtesy of TIFF

One of the producers behind the Oscar-winning but divisive “Green Book” defended the film from criticism over how they told the story, arguing that it was actually aimed towards an older white audience.

“The audience for that kind of movie is largely older and largely white,” said Jonathan King, president of narrative film and television at Participant Media. “If you believe that older white people don’t need to be told to be less racist anymore because that’s an issue from the past, look around. Because they do.”

King was speaking on a panel about diversity and inclusion during the Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on Monday.

“Occasionally you need to make a movie that is directed at older white people,” he added.

Although it won Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, “Green Book” drew criticism mainly for telling a story about an African-American through the perspective of a white person. In the film, classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is driven through the Jim Crow-era South by his white chauffeur, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortenson).

Spike Lee, whose “BlacKkKlansman” lost to Peter Farrelly’s film for Best Picture, made headlines for being visibly upset about the film getting the honor. Asked about his reaction to the “Green Book” win, Lee said “I thought it was courtside at the Garden and the ref made a bad call.”

“Are we going to get criticism because the director happens to be a white guy? Maybe,” King continued. “No director would represent the lives and lived experiences of those two main characters, because they were coming from completely different points of view.” King added that “many companies did not want to finance that movie” because it was believed it would not do well internationally.

Bad Robot co-CEO Katie McGrath, who was also on the panel, responded to King, arguing that these stories need to be told more from the vantage point of the person of color.

“Those stories have to be told as long as we’re also telling stories of the protagonist of color,” she said. “We need to make space in our industry for stories that center for the people who haven’t had the opportunity to have their perspective drive the narrative.”