Producer George Lucas refuses to bite his tongue on why he couldn’t get funding for his latest film, “Red Tails.” In a recent interview on the “Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” he revealed that Hollywood studios avoided the film about the pioneering Black aviators of World War II because of its all-Black cast.
The film, which is based on the Tuskegee Airmen, stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrance Howard and was directed by Anthony Hemingway.
“It’s because it’s an all-Black movie,” Lucas told Daily Show host Jon Stewart. “There are no major White roles in it at all. I showed it to and they said, `No. We don’t know how to market a movie like this.’ It’s one of the first all-Black action films ever made.”
He said he began the project 23 years ago “and it turned out just like Star Wars in that it was way too big for one movie. There was the story of how they got trained at Tuskegee (Institute in Alabama), and how Eleanor Roosevelt became their champion.
“Then there was the battle movie that had piqued my interest initially. And finally the amazing saga of the start of the civil rights movement after the war. So this literally went on for 20 years, trying to get it all into one script, which meant leaving out many things we loved and going mainly with the war story and hinting at the rest.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lucas funded the film’s $58 million budget and spent an additional $35 million on its distribution.
He explained on the “Daily Show” that major studios were afraid of how the project would fare overseas, where most of their profits derive.
“It’s a reasonably expensive movie…they don’t believe there’s any foreign market for it and that’s 60 percent of their profit.”
Looking forward, Lucas told USA Today that if “Red Tails” doesn’t do well, he fears it will affect Black filmmakers’ ability to get major Hollywood support in the future.
“I realize that by accident I’ve now put the Black film community at risk. I’m saying, if this doesn’t work, there’s a good chance you’ll stay where you are for quite a while. It’ll be harder for you guys to break out of that mold. But if I can break through with this movie, then hopefully there will be someone else out there saying let’s make a prequel and a sequel, and soon you have more Tyler Perry’s out there.”
“Red Tails” arrives in theaters on Jan. 20.