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Minnesota native wins Oscar for best picture 'Green Book'

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Jim Burke,Charles B. Wessler,Nick Vallelonga,Peter Farrelly,Brian Currie
Jim Burke, from left, Charles B. Wessler, Nick Vallelonga, Peter Farrelly and Brian Currie pose with the award for best picture for "Green Book" in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Jordan Strauss | Invision | AP

Updated: 11:30 p.m. | Posted: 7:45 p.m. 

Two Minnesota natives took home Oscars Sunday night, including for best picture winner "Green Book."

Edina native Jim Burke produced the segregation-era road-trip drama that also won best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali's performance of Don Shirley and best original screenplay at the 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles Sunday.

"This is like a dream," said Burke while accepting the trophy with the film's cast and team. "We made this film with love, and we made it with tenderness and we made it with respect."

The film is the true story of the 1962 road trip of Shirley, an African-American concert pianist. He embarked on a concert tour of the deep South and hired an out-of-work Italian-American bouncer to drive and protect him. The driver and the passenger form a friendship against the backdrop of racial tension.

Director Peter Farrelly added of the win: 

"This whole story is about love," said the comedy veteran of broad comedies like "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary," "It's about loving each other despite our differences and finding the truth about who we are; we're the same people." 

In an interview with MPR News in November, Burke said he wanted to make a more substantial film and found a partner in Farrelly. 

"I sort of drifted towards making movies that had sort of deeper meaning ... I was completely unsuccessful, but then he found this idea and came to me and we were off to the races," Burke said in that interview. 

 'Free Solo' winner: Believing in the impossible

Earlier in the evening, Mankato native Jimmy Chin won for best documentary feature for "Free Solo."

The film follows elite rock-climber Alex Honnold's attempt to ascend the famed El Capitan rock formation at Yosemite National Park without ropes.

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (left) and Minnesota native Jimmy Chin
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, left, and Minnesota native Jimmy Chin accept the award for best documentary feature for "Free Solo" at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Chris Pizzello | Invision | AP

The film was directed and co-produced by the husband-and-wife team of Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. 

At Sunday's awards ceremony, Vasarhelyi thanked National Geographic, and specifically called them out for hiring female directors. She ended her speech by saying the film is "for everyone who believes in the impossible."

Chin spoke with MPR News about the documentary in October.

The film wouldn't have happened without high levels of trust among Honnold and the camera crew, Chin told MPR. Many of the people who worked on the movie had known and climbed with each other for years.

They filmed two years of Honnold's practice and discussed spots on El Capitan where he didn't want other climbers.

To get around some of the logistical challenges of filming on a nearly flat granite wall with a climber who could not be disturbed, the crew used remote cameras to capture up-close angles of Honnold without causing a distraction.

"It's literally like an Olympic-level gymnastics floor routine that if you make a single mistake at any moment you would die," Chin said of the climb.

Of course, Honnold made it. Despite all the lead time up to the event, Chin said he was only focused on how to execute the climb. He hadn't thought much about what it'd be like once Honnold reached the top, and said it caught him by surprise.

"We were all very relieved of course," he said. "We were also very happy and proud of Alex."