Academy Award Winning Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. and Star Wars producer Rick McCallum discussed the motivations and difficulties in executing their recently released movie “Red Tails” at the Institute of Politics Friday.
The movie is based on the true story of the Tuskeegee airmen, a group of African-American fighter pilots who changed the course of WWII. Gooding and McCallum said they were motivated to do the film because they felt it was important to bring attention to the story of the Tuskeegee airmen, because of their role in the war effort and the racial discrimination they faced.
“In America, 90 percent of kids under 20 have no idea of who the Tuskeegee airmen were. I remember the first time I read that script—supposedly having finished my education—and not knowing anything about the Tuskeegee airmen,” Gooding said. “A lot of kids who don’t get wonderful educations get their educations through cinema. It’s about time to celebrate the contribution that we as African Americans have made to America.”
While Red Tails opened at the box office at number two, McCallum said that it was difficult for him and executive producer George Lucas to secure funding for the film, primarily because there were no white actors in leading roles.
“It has to do with the fact that [the major studios] don’t inherently believe that you can have a film with an all-black cast,” he said. “They just don’t know how to market it.”
Gooding and McCallum emphasized the potential for this film to open up the market for other serious, African-American films.
“If this film does well, other writers and directors will be able to bring their stories to the screen,” Gooding said.
McCallum joked that if the film had a Twilight-esque opening weekend, “we’ll never see another white person in a movie again.”
But Gooding also added that he felt the film’s message goes beyond racial struggle. “Everyone keeps saying ‘black airmen,’ but it’s also a film about airmen. It’s about being American.”
Real-life Tuskeegee airman and Yale Law School graduate Colonel Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse also attended the event. At the end of the talk, Woodhouse presented Gooding with a red tie similar to those worn by the Tuskeegee airmen, noting that the tie was “red, not crimson.”
Alexis J. Smith ’15, who attended the event, said that she found the panel “inspirational.”
“The clips they showed of the movie were very empowering,” she said.
Jeffrey G. Edwards ’15 was impressed with the level of dedication from the people involved in making the movie.
“It’s great to see how much they cared about such an important story,” he said.
The panel was moderated by Director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute and Winthrop House Master Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and was co-sponsored by the Black Policy Conference, the Black Student’s Association and the Black Men’s Forum.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.