George Lucas is quite frank about why Hollywood studios turned their backs on his Tuskegee Airmen action film, Red Tails: they didn’t want to put money into a film featuring an all-black cast.
Lucas explained Monday on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, “It’s a reasonably expensive movie. Normally black movies, say Tyler Perry movies or something, they’re very low budget. Even they won’t really release his movies, it goes to one of the lower, not major distributors…And this costs more than what those movies make.
He continued, “They don’t believe there’s any foreign market for it and that’s 60 percent of their profit…I showed it to all of them and they said ‘No. We don’t know how to market a movie like this.’ ”
Unlike the Matthew Broderick–Denzel Washington Civil War drama Glory or other films depicting black soldiers in battle, the World War II pic Red Tails does not feature a white protagonist, said Lucas, “It’s an all-black movie. There’s no major white roles in it at all. It’s one of the first, all-black action pictures ever made. It’s not Glory where you have a lot of white officers running these guys into cannon fire. They were real heroes.”
The Star Wars creator, who’s featured in The Hollywood Reporter‘s new 2012 Digital Power 50 list, put $58 million of his own money into the movie and is spending $35 million more for its distribution. ??It will be released by Lucasfilm Ltd. on Jan. 20, with Twentieth Century Fox distributing it.
Red Tails was directed by Anthony Hemingway and written by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder. ??The film stars Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Ne-Yo, David Oyelowo and Nate Parker.
Lucas also said there’s a prequel and a sequel ready to go if the film’s first weekend numbers are good.
And for his Star Wars fans, he teased, “This is as close as you’ll get to Episode VII.”
Lucas’ comments about Hollywood financing begin at the 1:38 mark below: