"Red Tails." In a recent "Daily Show" interview with Jon Stewart the legendary filmmaker explains why mainstream Hollywood clipped even his wings when it came to backing this film. Surprising? Yes and no!
What may be surprising is that even with with his legendary list of big screen successes including "Stars Wars", "Indiana Jones", etc., Lucas was treated like a black red headed step child when he asked the studios to produce "Red Tails." But what doesn't come as a surprise is why. Listen to the interview as he explains to Jon the major challenges he faced in getting this great movie to screen. And yes, I've seen it! It hits theaters January 20th, a few days after Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday--talk about a strategic move!
"This is not a movie about victims; this is a movie about heroes," said Lucas. I love that quote! But let's compare and contrast two stories told from different heroic perspectives, "The Help" and "Red Tails." Will mainstream audiences--code word for whites--financially support "Red Tails" as they did "The Help?"
Both are historical dramatic films inspired by true events in American history and black culture. Both are produced by mostly whites, yet have blacks in leading roles. Both were directed by first-time film directors. "The Help" mostly appeals to women; "Red Tails," an action war movie, naturally appeals to men but holds much appeal to women.
"The Help" paints a very different portrait of unassuming American heroes embodied by black women, while "Red Tails" is more traditional heroism as a league of black male soldiers save the day. Not to mention, "The Help," which was based on a best-selling novel already had a huge, eager audience awaiting the film version. Back in 1995, we were given the cinematic and memorable "The Tuskegee Airman" on the small screen. Likewise, many have been anxiously awaiting this big screen version.
Oppositely, "Red Tails" provides historical imagery white audiences--generally speaking--ARE NOT accustomed to seeing on the big screen. That's black men as HEROIC PATRIOTS, AVIATORS no less--men that use their intelligence NOT brute strength nor mystical powers to save others. There's no climactic throwing or passing of pigskin, harmonious singing and smiling, dance scenes, nor overly sexual and violent men. And there's also NO white male leading them to victory. Thus, it holds no appeal to mainstream audiences by Hollywood standards.
So will white audiences break away from tradition and PAY to see "Red Tails" just as they've supported "The Help?" Will producer George Lucas & co-writer John Ridley be the draw? I have my suspicions. But at the end of the day, Hollywood doesn't care about black or white, it cares about green as Lucas said. The most important question is can we make "Red Tails" PROFITABLE!