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Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr & The Importance Of The Success Of George Lucas' "Red Tails"

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 23, 2011 9:42 AM
16 Comments
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Had second thoughts about posting this, given how fiery debates on these issues tend to get on S&A; also, what both actors say here is redundant, as we've heard this all before. But, what the hell, it's Friday. Bring it :)

So... George Lucas' Tuskegee Airmen film, Red Tails (you all know about it, right?) screened for the Congressional Black Caucus recently, and, in attendance were stars Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr, who had a few things to say about Hollywood's approach when it comes to black talent and films with black casts, as well as the significance of the success of Red Tails.

First, from Terrence Howard:

The…problem, and what becomes the undercurrent is that it’s an all-black cast, and the villains are white. Now, Hollywood, for a number of years has maintained the status quo by saying black films do not have an international value. Therefore we’re able to pay black actors less, we can give them less money to make their films…If this film, if George Lucas, who is basically the Parrish of the film industry, as Col. Noel Parrish did for the Tuskeegee Airbase, he put his entire career on the line and stood behind these black pilots, these American pilots. What George Lucas did, he put his entire career on the line…when they wouldn’t distribute it, he put $30 million into distribution. If this film is not successful, it will become a stumbling block for all time where they can say that black films do not have value or merit. It’s important that this film is supported…if George Lucas does not profit from this, then the rest of the industry will see no profit in black people.

Damn! Pressure much? I feel like I hear this almost every time a major Hollywood film with a predominantly black cast is about to be released... "if black audiences don't support this, then blacks in Hollywood are effed! No more black films from studios, because they'll say that we didn't support the last one!" That about sum it up?

And second, from Cuba Gooding, Jr.:

[When George Lucas was asked about the studio system's support of Tyler Perry he said] you have to understand that Tyler Perry took his own money…then when his movies were hits, the studios said they didn’t know how to market them. So they had to go outside the studio system ...The studio system is what it is, run by people who are afraid ... Until they come out of that fear, we have to thank our lucky stars for these men who see this as an opportunity... There aren’t many examples of filmmakers who get their product to the screen with the support of the system... To strive to promote black independent filmmakers, I go to festivals, I meet them, and then when people offer me projects that don’t have directors, I tell them, what about this guy? [People like director Lee Daniels, with whom Gooding's made several movies], these are the new voices in Hollywood…With Spike Lee, this black director, now that we have him, we don’t have to look anymore. We’ve got one. I’m with CAA, and I tell [Gooding's agent], who’s the next voice? Men and women, let’s get them. Let’s support them in a big studio project...

In essence... Shit is rough son! Hustle hard!

What will the success of Red Tails mean for "black film" in the long run? I dunno. How about the success of The Help, which has grossed $150 million thus far, mean for blacks in Hollywood in the short and long term? I dunno... Again, I feel like these are all scenarios we've been presented with in the past.

For example, I remember Halle Berry and Denzel Washington winning the 2 top acting awards at the Oscars almost 10 years ago. I remember the buzz being all about what that moment meant for blacks in Hollywood, and how things might change going forward. Exactly how much did things change?

I can go back to the late 80s/early 90s, the "Golden era of Black cinema" as some have labeled it, with the rush of films we saw by a variety of black filmmakers. I remember back then there was talk of a renaissance of sorts; there was an excitement at what may come. What happened? Especially since we're still having the same damn debates that we were having 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80... years ago!

When Red Tails drops, will I see it? Of course I will! At a press screening most likely, which I won't have to pay for, but I'll see it :) Seriously though, if I see it at a press screening, and if I dig it, you know I'll be singing its praises on S&A. I'll even take the GF along and pay to see it a second time when it's in general release.

But I'm not ready to place this burden on it, as Terrence has done in his quote, making these hyperbolic statements about what its success or (failure) might mean. It's one film, and I'll treat it as one film, as I've done all the others that came before it. All I can ask for at this point is that it's good (from my POV anyway), and if it is, that people see it. Whatever happens after that... who knows.

Maybe because I gave up on looking to Hollywood studios a long time ago (since they continue to disappoint) that words like this don't affect me much anymore. Like I said in my review for The Help, "yo, I'm tired;" I'm numb from this shit. But I'm sure some of y'all feel differently, so don't let me stop you from dishing... :)

[Loop21] [ThinkProgress]

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16 Comments

  • Tamara | September 27, 2011 3:21 AMReply

    After Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Indiana Jones Part 4, I agree with Dee in saying that if this movie doesn't do well, it will be no loss for Lucas. I mean, he bounced back from Jar Jar Binks! Not once, not twice, but three times! LOL George profited in those features, but those features suffered greatly in criticism and such. Howard makes it sound like: "save us Obi-Wan-George-Lucas-Kenobi. you're our only hope." LOL

    +1 @David's comment.

  • Bruce Redwood | September 25, 2011 1:00 AMReply

    This is Cuba Gooding Jr.'s first non-straight to DVD film since American Gangster (2007). I hope it's not his last.

  • ShebaBaby | September 24, 2011 7:12 AMReply

    Okay am I the only person who notices that the poster above says that John Ridley wrote the script with Aaron McGruder. Boondocks Aaron McGruder? Not sure how I feel about that. Love the Boondocks but Aaron McGruder...really?

  • eshowoman, the cranky film critic | September 24, 2011 5:33 AMReply

    Blacks seem to have very little interest in seeing complex historical dramas. It seems that most of us would rather see a white savior movie where the death of Medgar Evers is a footnote and making a shit pie is the biggest blow a black woman can make for civil rights. Whites will not seee or rent black films unless Red Tails follows the same white savior narrative, it wiil more of the same old same old

  • LeonRaymond Mitchell | September 24, 2011 4:16 AMReply

    Terrence Howard is right but Black folk need to wake up and look at the signs, They are already looking at Black films as having no merit and Black folk too, Why do you think they can do stuff to actors like Tarajii P. Henson and get away with it, LEE DANIELS made a comment in DGA MAGAZINE he stated "unless your doing films about Buffoonery AFRICAN AMERICAN CINEMA IS DEAD" he has 3 awesome projects that depict the black experience and can't get a dime, they see Black films as a joke cause they don't get supported, Black folk don't stick together to force change of what they want , Harry Belafonte stated that the only WAY IS FOR US TO CREATE OUR OWN INDUSTRY and until we do that we will always be depended on situations like this -being on the bubble to see if this is a winner at the box office no other ethic group goes through this none, except us

  • Neziah | September 24, 2011 1:35 AMReply

    Terrence Howard's comments are definitely hyperbolic, but who knows, he may be right. What matters most to me if whether or not the film is good, then I'll decide whether or not to support it.

  • David | September 24, 2011 1:24 AMReply

    False equivalency to compare "The Help" to ... say Monster's Ball, Training Day, et al. that saw 'accolades' for Black actors and actresses. Even more false to hearken to the 80s "golden age." The reality is, those prior films brought prestige, social consciousness, white lib guilt, whatever you else you wanna say, but not huge commercial prospects, not bank. Period.

    Say what you want, The Help is killing at the BO. And Red Tails may (or may not). Does that mean automatically the industry will start promoting and making more films with casts of color? Maybe, maybe not. But the studios are in the money game, period -- not social policy, diversity or political consciousness raising. If something makes money, they'll make it. Tough pill to swallow.

  • ttenth | September 23, 2011 12:24 PMReply

    There is some truth into this. Whether the film is a good film or not will not be a factor. People will look at the numbers. 30M for a period film with an Af Am cast is a tricky endeavor these days. Not even including the P&A.

    They wrapped principal photography a couple of years back. So the delay to making it into theaters does cause concern

  • Darla & Mark | September 23, 2011 11:54 AMReply

    Baby, there are all kind of reasons why this movie won't get the must needed black community support.

    As an individual black person, thirty years ago I would have care to see this movie made, not so today, maybe young blacks today need this for black history.

    Didn't go to see HELP.

  • DAX | September 23, 2011 11:21 AMReply

    I agree with Carlton that it is the wrong film to lay all the eggs on! We also need someone who doesn't already have a vested interest in black people to take that chance, Lucas is either married or dates exclusively black women so I feel like he almost has a sympathetic interest in us than a creative interest. Spielberg did Color Purple and it still hasn't changed HollyWood's thinking of our abilities. Denzel Washingtom continues to be America's favorite male (Johnny Depp just surpassed him) lead but Hollywood invests nothing in the Black experience!

  • DAX | September 23, 2011 11:15 AMReply

    Didn't you all bring up the idea that if white Hollywood doesn't think black cinema is marketable overseas, why then do black athletes, black hip-hop culture, and black influence permeate throughtout the world and have such a major influence in the social make-up of just about every nation's young people!

  • Jug | September 23, 2011 11:11 AMReply

    Carlton, where you been mane?!

    Shoulda done the 761st All Black "Tiger" Tank Battalion. Denzel, Morgan Freeman & Kareem Abdul Jabbar been trying to get one made forever. Just so happens Lucas has more money than God & don't have to beg anyone. Also helps to own one of the world's best FX companies.

    I can't remember the last time I saw a non--sci fi tank movie. Been a minute.

  • Vanessa Martinez | September 23, 2011 11:00 AMReply

    I will definitely see it at the theaters. That's all.

  • Dee | September 23, 2011 11:00 AMReply

    No big risk here.

    If it fails it'll be "That Black Pilot Movie" If it succeeds it'll be George Lucas' Red Tails.

    There is no loss for Lucas here. The vocal fans are a small fraction of film-goers who don't matter. They probably wont see this anyway due to it having more that one black face in it.

  • Dee | September 23, 2011 10:57 AMReply

    Test

  • Carlton Jordan | September 23, 2011 10:35 AMReply

    Redtails was the wrong all black cast movie to do. Tuskegee Airmen we already seent.

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