Recently famous American movie producer, George Lucas, was a guest on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. He was there to promote his new production, Red Tails. Host Jon Stewart, of course, brought up Star Wars, Lucas' blockbuster franchise that made box office and pop culture history. Lucas revealed that his new film did not have an easy time getting a greenlight from Hollywood or even getting money for advertising. Red Tails is based on real life heroes of World War II, the all-African American squadron of flyers known as The Tuskegee Airmen. Apparently, Lucas has tried to get this project on the big screen for 20 years. On The Daily Show, he bluntly said that Hollywood didn't want to finance a film featuring an all-Black cast. If George Lucas had trouble getting a film about African American characters onscreen, just imagine the stories that Melvin Van Peebles, Spike Lee, John Singleton, Warrington & Reginald Hudlin and Kasi Lemmons could tell. (Ms. Lemmons directed 1997's Eve's Bayou and the highly entertaining 2007 bio pic starring Don Cheadle, Talk To Me, about controversial Washington DC radio show host/humorist/activist Ralph "Petey" Greene.) Red Tails opens Friday, January 20th.
I read comments from a couple of critics that this film is just average. Be that as it may, I think those reporters missed a point of what Lucas was saying. Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor was one big hunk o' moldy cheese. I was sitting at a New York City diner counter when a beefcake male model-type sat down next to me, ordered and said "I just walked out of Pearl Harbor. Don't worry. I know how it ends. What a stinker." But, Bay got it made. He got a greenlight from a Hollywood studio. He got a big budget to promote it. Bay didn't meet with the resistance that Lucas did. The story of these African American heroes was done once before on television. Laurence Fishburne got Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his lead performance in the 1995 HBO mini-series, The Tuskegee Airmen.
On Monday, January 23rd, it'll be interesting to see how Lucas' production fared at the weekend box office. Hopefully, Black History will do pretty well and coax Hollywood to embrace diversity a bit more. Speaking of Black History, some could be made the next day, January 24th. The Academy Award nominations are announced early that Tuesday morning. If Viola Davis is nominated for her performance in The Help, she'll make Oscar® history as the second Black actress to have more than one acting nomination to her credit. So far, the record is held by Whoopi Goldberg. Whoopi was a Best Actress nominee for The Color Purple. She won Best Supporting Actress for Ghost. Viola was a Best Supporting Actress nominee for Doubt, starring Meryl Streep. Personally, I'd like to see Viola now get glammed up and do something festive like Meryl did in The Devil Wears Prada. Love you, Viola!