George Lucas puts $93 million into 'Red Tails'
George Lucas is putting his money where his mouth is, and betting $93 million of his own cash that Red Tails will be a success.
The film tells the story of the brave African-American pilots in the Tuskegee program during World War II. Production began a couple of years ago, however the film’s title has been mentioned in nearly every major article written about Lucas in over a decade.
The movie’s cast consists of a mash up of A-list and B-list black Hollywood actors including Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tristan Wilds, Method Man, Ne-Yo and more.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Lucas’s latest film is a personal passion project that inspired him to back the war movie with his own funds.
“The creator of Star Wars reached into his own deep pockets to bankroll the new action movie about African-American pilots in World War II, spending $58 million to make it and $35 million more to distribute the film. Lucas serves as executive producer of Red Tails.”
Lucas is worth a reported $3.2 billion, as cited in Forbes, however $93 million is a substantial wager for one person to place on a single film.
The American Graffiti director said that he was drawn to the project because he wanted to make an action movie about the young men who prevailed in a situation where the odds were stacked against them.
It is rare in Hollywood to see a producer single-handedly pour so much money into a film, especially when the movie is about an iconic moment in black history. The 2006 film adaptation of Dreamgirls reportedly cost between $70 and $80 million to produce and until now was the most expensive film in the history of American cinema to feature an all African-American starring cast.
Bill Condon directed and jointly produced the film with DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures. The movie starring Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy received rave reviews from critics and went on to gross $155 million worldwide and take home two Academy Awards.
There have been black producers and directors who have tried their hand at bringing big budget films with all black casts to theaters, but the results have been mixed.
Miracle at St. Anna, directed by Spike Lee, featured the talents Derek Luke, Laz Alonso and Michael Ealy. The film sought to make the point that African-American soldiers fought just as bravely and as hard as white soldiers during World War II.
The movie reportedly cost $45 million to make but had poor domestic box office sales of only $8 million.
With $93 million dollars riding on the line, Red Tails has major pressure to surpass the success of Dreamgirls.
Red Tails will finally hit theaters January 20, 2012, which is a strange time to release an epic war movie, and will makes it ineligible for Academy Award consideration.
Anthony Hemingway, who directs the film, is hoping that a release during Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend will help bring viewers out to theaters.
An intense marketing campaign for the war film has begun with posters, a new and upgraded trailer, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage on YouTube and a recent screening of the film for the Congressional Black Caucus.
Last week Lucasfilm added some excitement for fans of the Tuskegee Airmen flick with the debut of a comic book-like movie poster for Red Tails.
There is no question that Lucas is a film genius, and his body of work including American film treasures like Indiana Jones and Star Wars are proof. But if he can turn his latest endeavor into box office gold he might just be able to show the naysayers, that decades later “the force” is still with him.