Terrence Howard proud of ‘Red Tails’

Terrence Howard stars as Colonel A.J. Bullard in “Red Tails.”

While Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard may not be able to escape the headlines surrounding his personal life, he does indeed have a movie coming out this weekend. “Red Tails,” “Star Wars” mogul George Lucas’ action adventure inspired by the heroic Tuskegee Airmen, is now open in theaters.

Howard and his co-star, Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr., lead an impressive ensemble cast that includes Nate Parker (“The Great Debaters”), Elijah Kelley (“Hairspray”) and Ne-Yo (“Stomp the Yard”), and said in a recent interview with the Philadelphia Tribune, “I’m just really excited that we get to tell this 67-year-old story that should have been told a long time ago. But we needed someone like George Lucas to come through. Anthony Hemingway (“The Wire”) was amazing as a director in this movie. I’m so proud of what he accomplished.”

Actually the story has been told, albeit on a much smaller scale. While the TV movie “The Tuskegee Airmen,” starring Laurence Fishburne, won an Emmy Award in 1995, Howard feels that there are still aspects of this amazing story that are yet to be explored.

“Look how many stories there have been about police officers and all of that,” he said. “We can’t even think that that little one million or two million dollar budgeted film, which only really covered the first part of their training, and didn’t really even cover that well — that was such a low budget — to have an opportunity to tell it again. … And like George Lucas said, this story of all these great, incredible, brave young men — these rock stars of the sky, as it were — we need a prequel to it, and we need a sequel shot to it. Hopefully there will be some other filmmaker that will do the sequel to it, and will do the prequel to it.

“The one on TV — that was told more from the historical, day-to-day aspects of it. The one we’re doing — this is a fictional cast. All of the things took place, but they didn’t take place with just one person. They’ve taken place with a number of different people. This is a $100 million action movie. This is ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Star Wars’ with Black people!”

Howard plays the stoic and dignified Colonel A. J. Bullard, who goes straight to the Pentagon and demands that the young and capable Black squadron, having proven themselves on numerous occasions, be given decent equipment and assigned to important missions.

“Col. Bullard was based upon Benjamin O. Davis. This man was the third Black graduate from West Point,” said Howard. “This man held on so strong that he graduated number 37 in a class of two hundred-and-something, and in a fair field, he probably would have graduated first in the class. But he held no resentment against anybody, and was actually responsible for integrating the military, which started the integration of the rest of America. He was considered the old man on the base, but he was only 30 years old. Remember, most of these young, virile, strong pilots, they were 19, 20 or 21 when they were put into the air, but they revered this man for his comportment and his discipline.”

Howard maintains that working with the stellar cast of young African-American actors further enhanced the experience of shooting a full-out George Lucas action flick.

“It was nice that we weren’t in competition [with] each other,” he said. “We got to experience something that the rest of America gets to experience oftentimes — to work with the people that they look up to, and that they admire. I think this may start a new trend. Finally, we’ve got a $100 million movie under our belt, and all we have to do is make a couple of $100 million, and now we can go and make as many films as we want. It was great, but I tell you, this action-packed, adrenaline rush film is off the chain!”

Encouraging everyone to see “Red Tails” during its crucial opening weekend, Howard said in conclusion, “This is ‘Top Gun’ with ‘Star Wars’ special effects. I mean, Tom Cruise is gonna wish he was Black at the end of this movie!”

 

Contact Entertainment Reporter Kimberly C. Roberts at (215) 893-5753 or kroberts@phillytrib.com.

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