George Lucas and his team pored over many scripts over the years as they
searched for the right balance between airborne action, grounded drama, and the
fellowship amongst young men. "It's a big story and if we attempted to depict
everything, we'd end up with a ten-hour movie," Lucas says. Ultimately,
screenwriters John Ridley (U-Turn, Three Kings, Undercover Brother) and Aaron
McGruder (Boondocks) focused their efforts on the exploits of the heroic 332nd
Fighter Group based out of Ramitelli Airfield in Italy in 1944, as well as the
happenings within the halls of the Pentagon that saw that group put into action.
"I think there was a bit of destiny involved with me being the writer on this
film," says Ridley. "My uncle was a Tuskegee Airman. He never talked about it,
and when I got to meet the Red Tails, they never talk about it. That was one of
my big takeaways from working on this film. You have to remind yourself when
you're talking to these 90-year-old men that they were 19 and 20 years old at
the time and they didn't think what they were doing was monumental. They thought
of it as something that was necessary."
As with many of the people who worked on Red Tails, Ridley found this to be a
passion project. "I have a father who was in the Air Force and who lived through
the Second World War. I also have a young son, so I was writing for both of
them," he says. "I wanted the film to be exciting and inspiring to young people.
At the same time, for someone like my father I wanted the film to be engaging on
an intellectual level and be realistic in terms of its portrayal of the time and
McGruder came onto the film to add depth to certain characters, to quicken the
pace of certain scenes, and add a timeless spark of classic adventure. "I wanted
to combine the historic story with the fun, action-adventure vibe that you
expect from a George Lucas-produced film," says McGruder. "It has a comic
book-feel that only he could bring to a film. Before this, we didn't have our
John Wayne, but we now have that kind of larger-than-life treatment, and the
Tuskegee Airmen deserve it."
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