HomeAmerican EntertainmentPeopleFrank Vallelonga Jr., ‘Green Book’ Actor, Found Dead at 60

Frank Vallelonga Jr., ‘Green Book’ Actor, Found Dead at 60

by Craig Garrett
(Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)

The NYPD has confirmed that actor Frank Vallelonga Jr., who appeared in the 2018 film Green Book, has passed away at the age of 60. “This is a sad and completely shocking tragedy,” Vallelonga’s manager Melissa Prophet told Entertainment Weekly. “Frank was a great guy, father, brother, actor, and friend. He will be missed terribly.”

The NYPD said that officers responded to a call around 4 a.m. Monday from someone reporting an unconscious male in the Bronx, New York. The officers found the man unresponsive and without any signs of injury. Emergency Medical Services then pronounced him dead at the scene. On Wednesday, the NYPD announced that they had arrested 35-year-old Steven Smith in relation to the incident. He has been charged with the concealment of a human corpse. On Thursday, Vallelonga was identified as the deceased. NYPD said that the investigation into Vallelonga’s death is still ongoing, and the Medical Examiner will determine his cause of death.

Vallelonga felt a deep connection to Green Book, which won an Oscar for best picture in 2019. The film is based on Vallelonga’s Italian American father, Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, who served as a driver for Don Shirley in 1962. Viggo Mortensen plays Tony and Mahershala Ali portrays Shirley. Frank starred as his own uncle, Rudy Vallelonga, in the film.

Frank Vallelonga Jr. staunchly defended ‘Green Book’ after criticisms

In an interview with New Jersey 101.5 in 2019, the actor spoke about what sort of difference he hoped his film would make. “It’s something that I think everybody should go see, whether you’re young or old,” Vallelonga said. “It’s about relationships, it’s about respect. What you should take away from the film is that, no matter what differences you have or what your outlook is on life, if you can sit down and talk and get to know somebody, you may have differences but, if you can talk about it, people are people. We all like the same things, family, kids and you have to respect one another. It’s all about respect.”

Nick Vallelonga, son of Lip and brother of Frank Jr., co-wrote Green Book with Brian Hayes Currie and director Peter Farrelly. The film was set during the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and garnered some criticism over its depiction of race relations as well as so-called white savior tropes. However, Frank Vallelonga Jr. defended the accuracy of his family’s story, calling it “100 percent accurate.”

“Growing up, [Lip] told the story,” he explained. “We’d be sitting around the table and he would tell us about the trip, the story, Don Shirley. This is a story that we knew and my brother put it on paper and the rest is history. We heard the stories for many years… Nick interviewed Dr. Don Shirley at Carnegie Hall a couple of different times, maybe more, I’m not 100 percent sure. He got it word for word from Don Shirley.”

Films Vallelonga was in are The Birthday Cake, All In, and The Signs of the Cross. He also played a role in episodes of Gravesend, the TV series The Neighborhood as well as HBO’s iconic drama show, The Sopranos.