Where is George Lucas' Red Tails?
Quietly in development since 2005, we’re still waiting for George Lucas’ Red Tails. Ti ponders the fate of a potentially fascinating movie…
George Lucas isn't exactly short of money and clout when it comes to the movie business. So, why is it taking so long for him to release his latest cinematic venture, Red Tails?
The project has been long in development. In fact, it was announced way back in 2005. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, Red Tails focuses on the Tuskegee Airmen, African American WWII fighter pilots who faced enormous prejudice in order to fight for their country.
Named after the place where they were trained, the Tuskegee Airmen (formerly the 332nd Fighter Group) were known as the Red Tails, as they flew Mustangs with, well, red tails. Protecting bombers in raids over Italy and Germany, the 332nd were famous for not losing one bomber under their protection.
A film of their exploits titled The Tuskegee Airmen was made by HBO back in the 90s, and if you can find it, I highly recommend it. It stars the likes of Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr, Andre Braugher and Mekhi Phifer, and shows the pilots' rise from recruits through the racism they faced and all the way to the sorties over Berlin.
When I first heard of the project, I was simultaneously excited and terrified. Excited, as I couldn't wait to see a big budget WWII fighter pilot movie from the man who gave us the excellent space age dog fights of Star Wars: A New Hope, and terror as it was set to be written by the same man.
In March 2006, Rick McCallum, Lucas' usual producer, said in an interview: "We're working on Red Tails right now. George is writing the script as we speak. He's just finished the Indiana Jones script, and Steven's having that rewritten and a few things done. And then we start hopefully in October or November looking for another writer for Red Tails when George puts together his ideas of what he wants it to be. Then hopefully next year we'll start on that."
However, Lucas pulled a surprise out of his hat when, in December 2008, he announced he wouldn't be directing, but that Anthony Hemingway, who had helmed many episodes of The Wire, would be.
Other details also started to leak out, including a script review which was described by Ain't It Cool News as "an old-fashioned 1950s war movie honouring real-life heroism", but it wasn't until March 2009 that there was an official announcement.
The press release stated that Red Tails would be a "fictional story inspired by the historic and heroic exploits of America's first all black aerial combat unit" and that Anthony Hemingway would, indeed, be directing. There was also massive relief when it was revealed that the script was written by John Ridley (Three Kings) and simply based on an idea of Lucas.
The cast was also impressive, with names such as, Cuba Gooding Jr. (who starred in the original Tuskegee Airmen), Terrence Howard (Crash), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Nate Parker (The Secret Life Of Bees), David Oyelowo (The Last King Of Scotland), Kevin Phillips (Pride), Rick Otto, Cliff Smith, aka Method Man, Tristan Wilds and Andre Royo (The Wire), Lee Tergesen (Oz), and Ne-Yo.
At the time, George Lucas said, "I've been wanting to do Red Tails for 20 years, and we've finally got the means to showcase the skill of the Tuskegee pilots. We're working on techniques which will give us the first true look at the aerial dogfighting of the era. And our top-notch cast will really make this story special."
It seemed everything was set for an epic movie. Filming took place in Prague, real-life Mustangs were reportedly used and principal production wrapped in the first half of 2009. And then, nothing.
This continued all the way into 2010, the year that the film was meant to be released, until in February, rumours started that George Lucas was unhappy with the film.
Apparently, Lucas was unhappy with Hemingway's work and ordered "massive" re-shoots. Ridley's script was also apparently reworked and Rick McCallum was reported to be "pouring over dailies right now, trying to salvage whatever footage they can from Hemingway's work in order to figure out exactly how much will need to be re-shot."
Lucasfilm quickly denied this saying, "George Lucas and Rick McCallum are very pleased with the work Anthony Hemingway did directing the film and additional shooting that is scheduled to take place was built into production before it began, as it is on all our films."
However, it didn't look good.
Since then, news has been slim. Some set pictures have been released (which you can see below, and enlarge by clicking), but there has been no trailer, no release date announced, no teaser poster. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Is the film, like Red Dawn, destined to never be released? Is Lucas planning on redirecting it himself? We need answers! George Lucas, where is Red Tails?
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