It has been a long time coming, but the story of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II is finally being told in a major, Hollywood motion picture, on the big screen. Roland Martin had a chance to talk with two of the stars of “Red Tails,” Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard, about what it meant to be a part of this production. Take a look.
MR. MARTIN: Gentlemen, an amazing, amazing film; but give our audience on TV One’s “Washington Watch” a sense of how difficult it was to make “Red Tails” and get it on the big screen.
MR. CUBA GOODING, JR.: Well, we – we are blessed to have the passion and the fury that is George Lucas. He’s made this his life mission – to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, and he put his money where his mouth is. He’s – he’s – he’s invested tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars into the production and the promotion of this movie to date; and – and we’re here doing our part to – in support of his effort.
MR. MARTIN: And, Terrence, when people think “George Lucas,” they think some of the biggest movies in Hollywood history. He goes to the seven, major studios. He takes this move to them. What do they tell him?
MR. TERRENCE HOWARD: Well, they say, “It’s a good movie, but we don’t know how to market it.”
And he says, “You market it as an action film.”
They said, “Yeah, but,” you know, “there’s” – “there are no such things as Black action movies.”
So, George has – you know, has a wakeup call to – to the challenges of being African-American in this. In fact, one of the best things that George did is, instead of being stumped by that, he was like, “No. This is a movie about heroes. It’s not about victims.”
MR. GOODING: That’s right.
MR. HOWARD: “And I am going to stand behind it the same way I did ‘Star Wars.’”
And now, after putting $100 million – and if he had put his own fee on top of that, this would be a $250 million movie. This is him providing all of his services of Lucas Films for free. So, he’s done a wonderful thing by allowing Black men and women to tell the most incredible story that should light up the rest of the word and remind them of what the African-American is capable of, and their freedom is tied to our service and the blood that we’ve spilled.
OFF CAMERA: That’s right.
MR. MARTIN: Is this one of the toughest movies in terms of you guys hitting the road? I mean the two of you’ve been everywhere. It’s – it’s sort of like y’all are on concert, on tour, all the tour dates y’all had in terms of going before audiences, telling folks, getting the word out – because this is going to open on the weekend, of course, of MLK’s birthday in 2012.
MR. GOODING: Yeah. You know, it’s easy to talk about something you’re proud of. I mean that’s the bottom line. I can talk – I’ll continue to talk about this movie probably for the rest of my life, God willing. So, the last thing we want is for people not to know that it had opened. So, here we are in September, trumpeting the horn –
MR. HOWARD: Yeah.
MR. GOODING: — for a film that comes out in January. And, you know, we’re more than aggressive and excited to just tell this wonderful tale.
MR. MARTIN: Give us a sense of what it’s – what it’s been like sitting there with these Tuskegee Airmen, listening to the stories, listening to their personal tales directly from them – such historic individuals going through difficult times, being Black men in the military in the middle of Jim Crow.
MR. HOWARD: Well, it’s extremely humbling, and it’s enlightening because
you remember it’s by discernment and insight and discipline – these men were extremely disciplined, and they continue to show that disciplined nature. They have not left any stone unturned, and any stone that’s been thrown at them they’ve turned it around and built a wall and a monument on which all of us are able to live. We have a foundation of excellence, as Roscoe just said, and I want to continue spreading that excellence and that road throughout the rest of humanity.
MR. GOODING: And it’s also fun to watch them play with each other, because –
MR. HOWARD: [Chuckles.]
MR. GOODING: — they’ve been on the set every day of filming, and Billy, one of the Tuskegee Airmen, bragged about how he danced with Lena Horne. And then the other two were like, “He’s lying. He never danced with no Lena” – [chuckles] – Horne.”
MR. GOODING: And it’s like – to hear them bicker about things like that is so enriching for our character[s], because I mean some of this stuff is pretty heavy material, but it is so entertaining and heroic just to be around these guys. So, it’s g- — it’s been fun stuff.
MR. MARTIN: What has been the response from the overall mi- — military community – VFW, other folks? Have – have they been gi- —
MR. GOODING: Open arms – and inviting, and – and we – we – we just came back from the – the air show in Hartford, Connecticut, and people just stood up and cheered at the trailer and said that they’re going to do everything they can to support the movie.
MR. MARTIN: Last question. When they showed the trailer, you jumped out of the seat ’cause you wanted to see it. I mean you two still are excited to see it on – o- — you know, on the screen – the fight scenes, things like that.
MR. HOWARD: Well, this was a new trailer. We had never seen this second trailer.
MR. GOODING: Right.
MR. HOWARD: So, it’s like I wanted to be in a spot where I could see the whole thing. He’s over there, blocking the screen, and I’m like, “Where is he? I can’t get past him.”
MR. HOWARD: So, we’re watching this trailer like – I mean like the audience. It’s the first time we get to see it with the special effects. It – we had green screens. So, now we’re like little kids, and Christmas is here. I saw the wrapping of the packaging. Now I want to see the present underneath, and we –
MR. GOODING: That’s right.
MR. HOWARD: — got a little peek at it today.
MR. MARTIN: Well, look, it’s always a pleasure.
Again, folks, it opens January 20th, 2012. [I] want to see everybody out in the movie theaters. And as both of you said, check the ticket to make sure it actually says “Red Tails” on it – just to be sure.
MR. HOWARD: January 20th. Be there that weekend. That weekend is the most important weekend to establish this film as the success that it is.
MR. MARTIN: “Red Tails” is scheduled to open on January 20th. Be sure to get out there and see it right when it opens. We need to send a message to Hollywood that if they produce quality movies about the real African-American experience, we will reward them with our cash. In Hollywood, money talks, so be sure to say it loud.