George Lucas has invested over $90 million of his own money to finance Red Tails, a film about black pilots who fought in World War Two. Why? Because Hollywood says that they can't market a movie with an all-black cast. Despite the fact that notable actors like Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard will star in the film, distributors claim that there's simply no audience for a movie like this. 

Lucas claims that he showed the film to several major studios, who declined to distribute it because there's "no major white roles."

"I showed it to all of them and they said, 'No. We don't know how to market a movie like this...' They don't believe there's any foreign market for it, and that's sixty percent of their profit."

The problem is, when America thinks of movies with no major white roles, films like Big Momma's House and Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad House of Madea's Family Reunion Going To Jail instantly come to mind. They imagine comedies with Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy, where stereotype-driven racial humor is the focus of the film.

It's not like this is the first time there's been controversy over the lack of black actors in Hollywood playing major roles, particularly in the context of a historical war drama — Spike Lee criticized Clint Eastwood for his starch-white cast in Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, saying, "He did two films about Iwo Jima back to back and there was not one black solider in both of those films." But Lucas believes the problem is more financial than racial.

"It's a reasonably expensive movie. Normally black movies, say Tyler Perry movies or something, they're very low-budget. Even then, the [Hollywood studios] won't release his movie — it goes to one of the lower, not major distributors. This [film] costs more than what those movies make."

On top of the $58 million to finance the making of the film, George is putting a further $35 million towards distribution to get the project off the ground. 

I hope Red Tails takes off — not only to tip the balance of black movies away from "Black people are this way, white people are this way" jokes, but to see the unlikely rise of George Lucas, civil-rights champion.

Commentarium (14 Comments)

Jan 12 12 - 2:13pm

Throw in a token whitey. Maybe he's an old white man with deep wisdom. Or a sassy white woman.

Jan 12 12 - 2:18pm
Jeff @ DTM

Wow, you quoted all of his parts from his interview on The Daily Show without actually crediting where he said it, which would be the way you're supposed to report on an item like these.

Anyway, hopefully this quiets some of the a-holes that called Lucas a racist after Episodes 1-3.

Jan 12 12 - 4:20pm
Mr. Binks

Meesa gonna see dis beeeech!

Jan 12 12 - 4:22pm


Episode one, two, and three sucked. Not holding much hope here. `

Jan 12 12 - 4:36pm
Play Err

Who is going to write the music? (John Williams, probably) If the film is a hit and the music is halfway decent, ensembles everywhere will be playing it on their MLK and Black History Month concerts, a part of the repertoire that could use some new material.

Jan 12 12 - 5:38pm

Interesting how right after you quote a section about the lack of a FOREIGN market, you turn back and reference America.... Which is not really pertinent to the quoted excuse. If you think it's a bullshit excuse, say it! That would actually be interesting. But making wide cultural generalizations about what "America thinks" strikes me as ill thought out.

Jan 12 12 - 5:42pm

Instead of shutting up, Lucas put his own money where his mouth is. That is admirable. I hope the movie is good. If so, Red Tails is one of the few movies I'll watch in a theater this year.

Jan 12 12 - 10:02pm

How many people are going to see it to prove they aren't racist?

Jan 27 12 - 11:03am

@Purr. Instead ask yourself how many people are going to see it for the action and story telling, you dickhead.

Jan 12 12 - 11:23pm

I'm gonna go see this for the very same reason I'd never go see a Tyler Perry movie.

Jan 12 12 - 11:37pm
Jar Jar

At first I was interested in seeing this movie; but while having an all-black in no way turns me off, seeing that it is made by Lucas sure does. I just hope he didn't have too much creative control or input.

Jan 14 12 - 2:01am
Michelle Campbell

I saw this preview of Red Tails, when I was at War Horse. I instantly decided that Red Tail would be my next movie. I hope that you will go see this movie an prove the industry wrong... Also proving that Lucas know what he is doing and was more than worth the money he has invested.

Jan 15 12 - 8:12pm
anon o mouse

The story of the Tuskegee Airmen is incredible. I had never heard of them until I saw 1995 film; that film inspires me every time I watch it. Looking forward to this one.

Jan 16 12 - 1:01am

I love historical dramas, ESPECIALLY WWII, and ESPECIALLY when it is about the aerial battles. I can't be alone on this. No audience my ass.