Is this a case of publicists playing cover-your-ass, or is it a case of information being taken out of context? Let's break it down and see if we can figure it out.
According to a report on First Showing, the long-in-gestation Lucasfilm project "Red Tails" has taken another step back on its road to release, and at this point, if there was a new story tomorrow that somehow all the dailies and negatives for the film were somehow burned, I would not be surprised.
For those who are not familiar with the film's history, "Red Tails" is a story about the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, and for those not familiar with real history, the Tuskegee Airmen was a fighting unit, the 332nd Fighter Group of the US Army Air Corps, to be exact, made up of all African-American pilots. Since that was the 1940s, that was downright revolutionary, not just progressive, and it was an uphill battle against the realities of race relations the entire time. It's a truly important story, and since the early '90s, George Lucas has been talking about making this film. I think I remember hearing this title around the same time I first heard Lucas talking about "Radioland Murders."
I've learned not to believe Lucas when he vaguely discusses projects that might or might not happen at some point, because I think he talks a good game but rarely delivers. When "Red Tails" went in front of the camera last year with Anthony Hemingway directing, I was shocked. Pleased, but shocked. Mr. Beaks wrote an excellent report on the film's script, and if you're curious to see what story Lucas is telling about these important military heroes, check out that Beaks article.
According to First Showing's report, things didn't exactly go as planned.
Their report indicates that George Lucas has bumped up his role in the film from executive producer to director, at least on the major reshoots that are planned for the movie, as soon as the major rewrites are completed. First Showing suggests that it's Hemingway who proved to be the problem, but without seeing footage, it's impossible to know what happened. I would imagine someone like Hemingway, coming from a TV background, probably shot the script he was given, and Beaks certainly didn't seem to think the script was bulletproof. Maybe Lucas realized after showing the rough cut of the film to people that they just didn't do it right, and maybe that process illuminated some things that might help.
After people started picking up First Showing's report, Lucasfilm issued a statement that several different places are all running, word for word: "The story that is circulating about production on Red Tails is completely inaccurate. George Lucas and Rick McCallum are very pleased with the work Anthony Hemingway did directing the film and additional shooting that is scheduled to take place was built into production before it began, as it is on all our films."
Now, let's play devil's advocate. Lucas has always been a big fan of a production schedule with an additional photography period built in, and I can see why. Can you imagine the luxury of scheduling a time where you've had a chance to look at a rough cut, and you've got a wish list of things you'd do to the movie if only you had time? Not many filmmakers are able to build that in, but I'll bet they would if they could. It's not about being a bad filmmaker or having a first cut that's no good... it's about taking the opportunity to punctuate the film in the best ways you can imagine, and having the time and resources to do so.
I know the first tendancy of the online press when they get a denial back about a story is to yell, "Publicists lie!" And certainly filmmakers have been known to try to keep production difficulties quiet so it doesn't color the way people think about the finished film. But in this case, I wonder. It would be easy to misconstrue a scheduled period of pick-up shots as scramble to "fix" something.
The point is, though, "Red Tails" is definitely going back in front of the camera. We'll see if they still stick to the plan of releasing the film in 2010, and until then, I'm going to hope that this amazing true-life story is done some degree of honor by this film, no matter who directs what.
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