When the creator of a multi-billion dollar film franchise has a hard time getting a movie made in Hollywood, that says a lot about Hollywood. When that same filmmaker refuses to give up and gets the film made in the face of enormous skepticism that says a lot about the filmmaker. George Lucas’ new war action feature Red Tails is a passion project, to say the least and it has been a long time coming. It chronicles a group of African American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen who fought for the right to fight for their country. I sat down with the iconic filmmaker to talk about the film and why he fought for over a decade to bring the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to the big screen.
Where did you first get the idea to tell this story?
I’m not a flyer, but I love fast things. This is a project that came about from a friend of mine who was a photographer that shot for the Air Force. He told me about the story of the Red Tails, and I said, “Wow, that’s a really good idea for a movie.”
So, most of us would assume, George Lucas wants to make a movie, and he makes a movie. How long did it take you to get this from idea to reality?
I started on this around 20 years ago, and I just stuck with it. It has just been a project that I really wanted to do. I loved P-51s. When I was young, which was the hottest airplane. I can’t believe some of these guys flying these planes were 19 years old, and then going into battle. It’s pretty stunning and amazing when you think about it. Being able to bring this to reality, to be able to stand there with the P-51’s is like the most exciting thing you can do.
This is also a story about the men who made up this fighting unit. How important was the human aspect of this story to you?
The struggle for African Americans to fight during WWII, its part of the story, and you can’t tell the story without it. I wanted something a little more personal, something about the individual pilots and what they went through and the guys that loved to fly.
How did you help your actors prepare for their roles in the film?
We would have meetings with Tuskegee Airmen to make everything as accurate as we possibly could. We had a lot of sessions out on the ranch where we brought all the Tuskegee Airmen together and the cast together so they could have these weekends where they’d all talk to each other and tell these stories and do things so the actors could get into the real guys and who they are.
You fought so hard to get this made, what is your goal or hope for the movie?
The story of the Tuskegee Airmen is a big story, and it’s an amazing story. Just like Star Wars, it’s a big action picture with lots of dogfights lots of excitement, but it’s basically about a bunch of kids who went through an amazing journey and all came out heroes. They were the knights of the contemporary age, and I’m hoping this film is an inspiration to young people today.
I have nothing more to say, except go see this movie tonight! It’s in theatres nationwide. The film is rated PG-13 for some sequences of war violence.