Lucasfilm’s RED TAILS Is Taking Flight

     April 6, 2009

Written by Nicole Pedersen

George Lucas has finally nailed down a complete cast for his WWII epic “Red Tails”. The film chronicles the lives of America’s heroic Tuskegee Airmen and will star Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard and Bryan Cranston. Lucas has also set a director for the film and, as promised, his name is NOT George Lucas.

In case you never saw the HBO movie “The Tuskegee Airmen” with Lawrence Fishburne or even “Hart’s War” with Bruce Willis, The Tuskegee Airmen were an all-black, elite corps of fighter pilots that flew with distinction for the US Air Corps in World War II. As the first non-whites to fly in combat, the Tuskegee Airmen had to overcome a lot of racist bullshit in order to get shot at by Nazis… or so I’ve heard.

Lucas has apparently been harboring the desire to tell the Tuskegee story for about 20 years. He just got sidelined with ruining “Star Wars” and all. Lucasfilms was quietly interviewing directors and scouting locations last August, and the word was that “Red Tails” would fly sometime in early 2009 – around now, in other words.

So, true their word Lucasfilms has just sent out a press release announcing that “Red Tails” is ready to begin principle photography in Europe. It also lays out the film’s cast and the man who will be directing them… Anthony Hemingway.

Hemingway has directed a lot of quality television, including the “Six of One” episode of “Battlestar Galactica” and multiple episodes of HBO’s “The Wire”. He is also black. I don’t know if that was a factor or if Lucas just liked the man’s work but I thought I’d mention it.

I have to think that someone at Lucasfilms is a BIG fan of “The Wire”, though. No fewer than five of the “Red Tails” cast have also spent some time on the HBO series, including Method Man, Tristan Wilds, Rick Otto and Michael B Jordan. Additional, non-“Wire” related cast members include Nate Parker, David Oyelo and Lee Tergesen.

The script for “Red Tails” was written by John Ridley. He also wrote one of my favorite George Clooney movies, “Three Kings”, so I am daring to dream that “Red Tails” will actually add something to the Tuskegee story that we are all so familiar with.

On the other hand, the synopsis goes something like this:

1944. World War II rages and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.

Meanwhile the black pilots of the experimental Tuskegee training program are courageously waging two wars at once – one against enemies overseas, and the other against discrimination within the military and back home. Racial prejudices have long held ace airman Martin “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker) and his black pilots back at base – leaving them with little to do but further hone their flying skills – while their white counterparts are shipped out to combat after a mere three months of training. Mistakenly deemed inferior and assigned only second-rate planes and missions, the pilots of Tuskegee have mastered the skies with ease but have not been granted the opportunity to truly spread their wings.

Until now.

As the war in Europe continues to take its dire toll on Allied forces, Pentagon brass has no recourse but to reconsider these under-utilized pilots for combat duty. Just as the young Tuskegee men are on the brink of being shut down and shipped back home, Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) awards them the ultimate chance to prove their mettle high above. Undaunted by the prospect of providing safe escort to bombers in broad daylight – a mission so dangerous that the RAF has refused it and the white fighter groups have sustained substantial losses – Easy’s pilots at last join the fiery aerial fray. Against all the odds, with something to prove and everything to lose, these intrepid young airmen take to the skies in a heroic endeavor to combat the enemy – and the discrimination that has kept them down for so long.

Oh well, as long as the flight sequences are really bitchin’ I guess they don’t need an original concept…

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