Celebrating the thrilling heroics of the Tuskegee Airmen – a group of Black military pilots in World War II, RED TAILS marked the feature directorial debut of Anthony Hemingway, leading an all-star cast that includes David Oyelowo, Michael B. Jordan, Leslie Odom Jr., Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Nate Parker, Method Man and Ne-Yo. The film was produced by AFI Conservatory alum Rick McCallum (AFI Class of 1975) and was a passion project for AFI Life Achievement Award recipient George Lucas.
AFI Movie Club: RED TAILS
Watch RED TAILS producer George Lucas receive the AFI Life Achievement Award
DID YOU KNOW? Released in 2012, RED TAILS was a passion project for executive producer George Lucas – who first announced his intention to bring the story to the screen in the summer of 1990. Lucas was first introduced to the story of the Tuskegee Airmen by his friend George Hall, a leading aviation photographer and Army veteran. The Tuskegee Airmen themselves had been working to bring their own story to movie screens since the mid-1970s and consulted on the Lucasfilm production from its inception.
DID YOU KNOW? RED TAILS was not the first Lucasfilm production to demonstrate the legendary director/producer’s interest in World War II dogfights. During the making of the original STAR WARS, George Lucas used historical aerial footage as inspiration for the film’s climactic Death Star attack. For RED TAILS, the visual effects team consulted with pilot Ed Shipley – and with the Tuskegee Airmen themselves.
DID YOU KNOW? To accomplish the film’s thrilling dogfights, actors were filmed inside a gimbal-mounted cockpit that was moved against a green screen that was replaced in post-production with realistic backgrounds. Visual effect supervisor Craig Hammack said, “It was very important [to George Lucas] specifically to get the speeds right. There were times where we would push it beyond and he would say, ‘You know, you guys are making it exciting but you’re starting to break the reality of what the planes could do…so just dial it back a little bit.’”
DID YOU KNOW? The production employed a number of actual Tuskegee Airmen in an advisory capacity. Visual effects supervisor Craig Hammack recalled sitting with the Airmen as the trailer screened for an audience at New York Comic-Con – and watching as former fighter pilot Roscoe C. Brown, Jr.’s feet moved in unison with the action onscreen, as if working the plane’s rudder pedals. The veteran said, “Every time I see this trailer, it takes me back 50 or 60 years, and I’m young again.”
DID YOU KNOW? One week before the film opened in American theaters, cast, crew and members of the original Tuskegee Airmen attended a special screening at the White House. They were greeted personally by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who joined them to watch the film in the White House Family Theater.
Learn more at the AFI Catalog.
The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Discussion Questions
- Were you familiar with the story of the Tuskegee Airmen prior to RED TAILS?
- How were the Tuskegee Airmen treated differently in Europe than they had been treated at home in the U.S.?
- How were they treated differently by their peers, by their allies and by their enemies?
- How do you think the Tuskegee Airmen inspired or informed the Civil Rights movement that would come to the states in the decades following the end of World War II?
- Do you think the Tuskegee Airmen’s heroics and sacrifices were successful in advancing equality in the military? In American society? Why or why not?
- How would you rate RED TAILS?
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