george Lucas Red tails

This weekend marks the release of the long-gestating George Lucas passion project Red Tails, a biopic of sorts about the Tuskeegee airmen who battled racism to fly fighter planes for their country during WWII. The film itself has been through its own uphill battle to see the light of day in theaters.

If we're to believe what the Star Wars director says - we have no reason not to - the film's biggest setback was the nearly all black cast that caused the major studios to turn their backs on the production of the film. Seems the studio suits don't trust the box office potential of a film featuring African Americans which doesn't have Tyler Perry's name in front of it. Fortunately, they haven't been given a chance to reconsider their idiotic Tyler Perry shun from many years ago which has cost them literally millions of dollars through the years.

But not to be deterred from seeing his baby take its first breath, Lucas simply fronted the $100 million from his own pocket to finance and market Red Tails which harkens back to the glory days of war movie filmmaking that featured tons of gung-ho fighting action, sometimes corny but wonderful patriotism, and plenty of kicking the enemy's ass.

Stating that he doesn't believe the studios were necessarily being racist by rejecting his all-black action adventure, Lucas said he thinks they were simply having trouble visualizing where the film would fit in their marketing schema. Things like who the film is intended for, and how they could reach that audience were hurdles they weren't willing to take on.

Lucas believes that the box office success of Red Tails can have a big say in the future of Black cinema. Lucas is quoted in a New York Times article as saying "If we can get over $20 million in our first weekend, we're kind of in the game. We're in The Help category." He continued, "If it gets $30 (million) in the first weekend, then those guys get to make their movies without even thinking about it." Here Lucas was speaking of Spike Lee or Lee Daniels or whoever else might direct the Red Tails prequel and sequel. Some original versions of the script suggested a three-part epic that begins in Selma, Alabama then moves to the battlefields of Europe before ending with the war heroes returning home to a country still in the full-on throes of racial hatred and segregation. If the film goes on to meet or even top its production budget in the first few weeks, there's no reason to think that many doors won't be opened to African American filmmakers in the future.

In a somewhat related sidenote, another George Lucas announcement has Red Tails headed into the annals of movie trivia as the filmmaker has said that it will be his last big-budgeted blockbuster. He did leave a slight crack in the door however by saying he'd likely return for Indiana Jones 5. "I'm retiring," Lucas said. "I'm moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff." Lucas has apparently decided to move back to his origins as an experimental filmmaker and focus on smaller budget artsy films like the ones he explored while attending art school at U.S.C.

Love him or hate him, it's likely that no one ever though they'd see the day George Lucas would hang up his megaphone.