The latest George Lucas production focuses on a group of African American pilots during World War II facing facing segregation and racism while serving in Italy.
“Red Tails” is about the Tuskegee Airmen, a real life squadron of black pilots who won scores of medals for bravery.
But Lucas had to dig deep into his own pocket to fund the production. He has said the major studios refused because the principal characters were all black.
Leading actor Terrence Howard said: “I met George (Lucas) in 2006. He said to me when I was giving him an award, and I thought he was just shining me on you know, ‘I’m about to do a film about the Red Tails. I’d love to talk to you on it.’ So, I thought ‘Wow, this is going to happen.’ Three years later I finally get the call that he’s going to do it but you get excited because this is the man that created Yoda. This is the man that created ‘Indiana Jones.’ This is the man who has made legends out of thin air.”
Before 1940, African Americans were not allowed to fly in the US military. After pressure from civil rights groups and the black press a squadron was based at Tuskegee in Alabama, where the Tuskegee Airmen painted the tails of their aircraft red.
Another leading actor, David Oyelowo, said:
“You can see ‘Indiana Jones’, you can see ‘Star Wars,’ you can see ‘American Grafitti’ all in this movie. All of those you know the camaraderie in ‘American Graffiti’, the action sequences of ‘Star Wars,’ the adventure of ‘Indiana Jones,’ it’s all in this movie so you know in a way by saying ‘Red Tails’ is our favorite George Lucas movie we’re sort of paying homage to all those as well.”
Lucas has said the film is one of the first black action movies ever made. “Red Tails” opens in the United States and Canada on January 20.