Flying High on the Red Carpet of ‘Red Tails’
When inspiration or courage strikes individuals, obstacles often fail to impede the path to success. That was the case for both the Tuskegee Airmen in 1941 and for George Lucas, who was unwavering in his determination to tell their story.
During World War II, these brave African American men broke racial barriers when they were assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, marked by its red-tailed airplanes, and were charged with protecting U.S. bomber groups attacking Germany. Together, they steered the vast majority home safely, and tempered misguided racial tensions held by the white airmen.
“It’s inspirational – it’s about a bunch of young kids who overcome a lot of obstacles,” Executive Producer George Lucas told www.CelebrityEverything.com on the red carpet in Manhattan. “They risk their lives to make America safe for democracy and at the same time, to be the people who make our country what it is today.”
Terrence Howard, who plays Colonel A.J. Bullard, and Ne-Yo, who portrays Andrew ‘Smoky’ Salem, displayed great enthusiasm while chatting up this film – particularly for George Lucas’ financial and mental fortitude to transform this often forgotten or untold story into a big screen spectacle that will endure for many generations to come.
Q: Terrance, this film was in the works for several years. How did your attachment to the project go?
Terrence Howard: When I heard about the first opportunity to do this film, I heard it from George Lucas in 2006. And in the fall of 2006 I called my agent and in the spring of 2007 I called and said, “Has he called yet?” And then in the spring of 2009, I finally got the call. I waited three years to be a part of it, but I’ve wanted to work with George Lucas since I was a child. He is one of the gods of cinema, so to be under his tutelage is a blessing – it means a great deal.
Q: What did you learn about yourself doing this film?
TH: That these guys, 20 years younger than me, had the courage and fortitude to save the world – and to overcome any obstacles that had been placed in front of their way. It was sure will that is in all of us.
Q: Do you see directing in your future as a next step for your career?
TH: Possibly. I think that’s the next transitional link in succession from actor and movie lover to wanting to participating and contributing.
Q: What was it like working with Cuba Gooding Jr.?
TH: He is one of the most amazing actors and human beings on this planet. I still to this day he was ‘Lightening’ (the airman’s nickname played by David Oyelowo) in real life – that’s who Cuba Gooding Jr. is.
Q: Ne-Yo, how was boot camp?
Ne-Yo: Boot camp was a week and a half of hell, but necessary hell, because what it did was create a brotherhood with eight guys. It made us get to know each other in ways we didn’t even want to know each other. But as a Tuskegee airman, your wingman was a guy who would literally die for you and that teamwork is what the boot camp created within us.
Q: What did you do to get ready for the film?
N: My character speaks with a certain twang in his voice because he’s from Alabama – he has a very thick Alabama accent. But I’m from Arkansas, so all I had to do was call home and talk to my family there and get refreshed with the twang.
Q: What made you say yes to this movie?
N: Honestly, my reasons were a little selfish in the beginning. I told myself that if I wanted to act, I wanted in movies that had nothing to do with Ne-Yo the singer/songwriter. But once I got on set and learned some things about the Tuskegee airmen, my reasoning completely changed. It made me proud of to be part of something like this – this movie is a part of American history. This is something I can show my kids when they get a little older and say ‘look at daddy in his heyday!’
Q: Can you talk about George Lucas backing the film?
N: George Lucas is the epitome of ‘no.’ They said ‘no’ to “Star Wars” and “American Graffiti,” and he did it anyway. They said no to “Red Tails” and here we are, damn it. If you learn nothing else from George Lucas it’s that ‘no’ means nothing. If you know what’s ordained for you, to hell with no!
Q: What impression do you want to leave moviegoers with after they see this?
N: I want people to be inspired, I want them to be educated about these men and what they did and I want them to be entertained.