“President Obama stood in front of the screen... and he said this was an American tale of heroism,” Cuba Gooding Jr. recently stated during a roundtable interview about his new film, “Red Tails.” He was referring to a recent White House screening of the film that brought together members of the film crew and some of the real Tuskegee Airmen.
The patriotic film tells the story of the heroic airmen and how that first unit of African-American pilots fought valiantly for the United States during World War II.
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Gooding Jr. was one of the many people who participated in interviews in Washington D.C. to promote the film. Alongside several actors from the film, director Anthony Hemingway and Dr. Roscoe Brown-- a member of the actual Tuskegee Airmen-- were there to talk about the production.
The actors said "Red Tails" executive producer George Lucas—who personally gave $100 million dollars to get this film made—came to the story with one overall mission. He wanted to make a movie about heroes-- not victims-- and he informed the cast that before the production began. During the process of making this feature, the creator of “Star Wars” was confronted with obstacles that stood in his way, including the reluctance of studios to finance a film with an all-black cast
Such difficulties, however, didn't include a reluctant cast.
Gooding, for one, noted how excited he was to participate in this project that honors some of the heroes of World War II.
“This is my love letter to the Armed Forces, no matter what branch you’re in. No matter what gender or race or creed,” the Oscar-winner says.
Gooding added that he enjoys playing veterans on the big screen and he has portrayed them in films like "Pearl Harbor," “Men of Honor” and the HBO movie, "The Tuskegee Airmen."
The opportunity in this case was bringing a story forward that many young people are not familiar with today. And instead of relying on news accounts of the airmen, the production enlisted the support of several actual members of the Tuskegee Airmen, including Brown himself.
Brown had been trying to make a film about the Tuskegee Airmen for more than 30 years, and Lucas helped bring his vision into life. These airmen were involved in the process throughout the filming.
"There were four [actual Tuskegee Airman] on the site every day and they were telling their story to us,” Gooding says.
Brown sought to make sure the film was historically accurate and the finished product has now earned the support and admiration of several prominent public officials. In addition to Obama’s screening of the film, former President George H. W. Bush saw the film with his wife, Barbara. Their reaction was complimentary, to say the least. As director Hemingway noted, “We were in Houston and George Sr. and Barbara Bush was there. She walked out balling...She was so moved by the film.” He added that they have requested a copy of the film to show their son, former President George W. Bush.
The story of the Tuskegee Airmen is one that should be told time and time again. It is a story about heroes fighting for our nation despite the racism they encountered during World War II. As actor Terrence Howard noted, this film should have been called “American Red Tails” because this is an American story. Of patriotism. Of honor. And of respect for the military who serve this nation so boldly through times of war.