Terrence Howard Video Interview On 'Red Tails'
Terrence Howard, the acclaimed actor best known for films like Crash, Ray and Hustle & Flow, stars alongside Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Red Tails. The film portrays the Tuskegee Airmen, a barrier breaking group of African American Army Air Force pilots during World War II. Howard plays Col. A.J. Bullard, a talented pilot who, in the face of intolerance and racism, gallantly commands the Tuskegee airmen.
Fortunately, this country has come a long way since those dark times, however, not long enough it seems, as the film nearly wasn’t made, the determining factor being whether or not an all-black cast could appeal to a mainstream audience. All major film companies chose not to invest in the project. “None of them wanted to step outside of the Jim Crow mentality that's dragged American cinema into this quagmire of inequality,” Howard told Uinterview in an exclusive video interview. George Lucas spent millions of his own money producing this film and, according to Howard, "He put up his own money to make a statement." Howard later added, “Now the question is if someone else will follow that up.”
Though the film tackles difficult issues and poses important questions, it is also primarily, according to Howard, “more of an action film about heroes.” Furthermore, he attributes much of the film’s early success to the audience’s desire to see an “exciting tale.” Howard has done action-packed roles like these before, appearing in 2008’s Iron Man before being replaced by Don Cheadle in the sequel. Nevertheless, this film was particularly meaningful for Howard. “I think that that [Red Tails] is going to make a huge impact as long as the cinematic society opens their eyes and sees that there is a great deal of value in this."
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For more on Terrence Howard and George Lucas:
- Q: George Lucas spent millions of his own money to finance the movie because the studios didn't think an all-black cast could succeed. Do you think you can change that perception? - Alexa Greenberg
- A: Well, it wasn't most of the studios; none of them would give their support. None of them wanted to step outside of the Jim Crow mentality that's dragged American cinema into this quagmire of inequality. He put up his own money to make a statement. Now, the question is if someone else will follow that up. Because it could be looked upon as a fluke that we were statistically the number one film last weekend, if you add up the per-screen averages. The only film that beat us was in almost seven hundred theaters more than our film and they charged a greater ticket price, but we actually had a higher per-screen average, because it's an exciting tale. It's not a civil rights movement even though it touches on some the civil rights, the starting of or some of the actions associated with the civil rights. This is more of an action film about heroes. I think that that's going to make a huge impact as long as the cinematic society opens their eyes and sees that there is a great deal of value in this.
- Q: Did you ever get a chance to meet Tuskegee airmen? - Alexa Greenberg
- A: My father was extremely afro-centric, so he made sure that we had a wonderful base knowledge in African-American contributions or negro contributions to society as a whole, to politics, to scientific and technological achievements. He wanted to make sure we knew that where we came from was great, and that the American brand was not just limited to whites in America. It spread equally and evenly to all those in America fighting for their dream.
- Q: Hi Terrence, this is Julia from Connecticut. Can you tell us about your character of Colonel Bullard in 'Red Tails?' - Julia Alkon
- A: My character is based on the archetype of a man by the name of Benjamin O'Davis, who became one of the first brigadiere generals, black generals, of the military. I mean, he lead with his service record, had so many distinctions of quality and character, but one of the things that impressed me the most was when he was like 18 to 22, in those four years he spent at West Point, not one cadet spoke to him, but he never let that dissaude him from his purpose, which was to show that negroes had the same capacity and the same capability as everyone else in the world. And he instilled this excellence and this need for service in all of the men under his command and ultimately lead to him testifying in congress before a congressional committee as to whether blacks had the skill set necessary to fly these planes and to make a contribution. But [it] ultimately led to 1948 President Truman desegregating the military which led to the desegregation of the South and the desegregation of schools and the desegregation of the American way.
- Q: The effects of the movie were great. Can you tell us about how some of the fight scenes were filmed? - Julia Alkon
- A: George called me and asked me how would he make these scenes look, so I gave him some of my expertise in the end of the day. I felt sorry for him, you know, trying to use wires [laughs]. But the special effects in this movies is second or third only to 'Avatar' and to the 'Star Wars' series. There's a number of films that have more special effects in it, but we had over 1600 special effects shots, and to put that into perspective, 'Avatar' only had 2000 special effects shots.
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