George Lucas Says Hollywood Refused to Fund ‘Red Tails’ Due to Its Black Cast

In an appearance on The Daily Show last night, George Lucas said that he had trouble getting funding for his new movie, “Red Tails,” because of its black cast.

George Lucas says in the interview that Hollywood didn't want to fund 'Red Tails' because of its black cast. Photo: Neon Tommy/Flickr

“This has been held up for release since 1942 since it was shot, I’ve been trying to get released ever since,” Lucas told Jon Stewart.

“It’s because it’s an all-black movie. There’s no major white roles in it at all…I showed it to all of them and they said no. We don’t know how to market a movie like this.”

“Red Tails,” which stars Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Terrence Howard, is based on the Tuskegee Airmen, the group of pioneering black pilots who fought in the United States’ segregated armed forces during World War II.

According to The Huff Post, the movie is directed by Anthony Hemingway, the rare black director getting a chance to direct a big-budget feature.

“I wrote the script many years ago, and it turned out just like Star Wars in that it was way too big for one movie. There was the story of how they got trained at Tuskegee (Institute in Alabama), and how Eleanor Roosevelt became their champion,” Lucas told USA Today.

“Then there was the battle movie that had piqued my interest initially. And finally the amazing saga of the start of the civil rights movement after the war.

So this literally went on for 20 years, trying to get it all into one script, which meant leaving out many things we loved and going mainly with the war story and hinting at the rest,” he said.

Last week he also said that he was worried that if Red Tails was a failure, it could have negative repercussions for black filmmakers.

“I realize that by accident I’ve now put the black film community at risk (with Red Tails, whose $58 million budget far exceeds typical all-black productions). I’m saying, if this doesn’t work, there’s a good chance you’ll stay where you are for quite a while.”

“It’ll be harder for you guys to break out of that (lower-budget) mold. But if I can break through with this movie, then hopefully there will be someone else out there saying let’s make a prequel and sequel, and soon you have more Tyler Perrys out there,” he said.

Lucas also explained why he decided to finance the film: “Everything I do is defensive. I got into a position (to finance projects) right after The Empire Strikes Back(1980). I didn’t need to have studios telling me what to do, picking movies for me to make, having me change them and recut them.”

“My first two films (THX 1138 and American Graffiti) were recut, and I said I just don’t want that. If I’m going to live or die by my movie, I want to be able to say, ‘Yeah, that was a terrible movie, I made a mistake, sorry.’ I don’t want to have to say I made a great movie but you guys destroyed it.” Lucas said.

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