James Dempsey: Why George Lucas's Red Tails has taken a nose dive straight after shaky take-off
THE story goes, and it comes straight from the Gungan’s mouth, that George Lucas, the pioneering writer-director who changed the face of cinema with Star Wars and Indiana Jones, approached the Hollywood studios in 1988 armed with his dream project, Red Tails.
The film would tell the story of the all African-American air force squadron, the Tuskegee Airmen, their aerial battles against the forces of fascism, and their figurative fight against the racial prejudices of wartime Uncle Sam. Set for a 1992 release, mooted as a sprawling trilogy inspired by Lawrence of Arabia, Lucas made his pitch, but the studios passed, saying audiences would not be interested in an all-black cast, particularly oversees, which would account for 60% of profit.
Shelved for nearly a quarter of a century, Red Tails is released nationwide today, having been bankrolled by Lucas to the sum of just under $100m of his personal fortune. And it fails to take off from the very beginning.