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RED TAILS

On Location
To accurately recreate Ramitelli Airbase in 1944, the production scoured the Italian countryside before settling on Prague. Outside of Italy, the production looked at locations in London, Russia, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria. "We traveled up and down Italy, retracing the route that the Tuskegee Airmen took before they landed in Ramitelli," says McCallum. "We researched the terrain and took into consideration all the looks we wanted in the film."

Not only did the team need enough space to mimic the massive Ramitelli Airbase, they needed to have an actual airfield nearby to bring in a variety of planes, including B-17 bombers, P-40s and P-51s. Producer Rick McCallum also admits, with a bit of a smile, they needed a place where they could take some risks.

"There is a scene when the pilots attack a German airbase that is one of the more spectacular explosions in the film," he describes. "We went through 100,000 liters of fuel for that scene. We got to blow up a base!"

When the actors arrived on location, they did not find a five-star hotel waiting for them. Instead, the men were driven to a warehouse on the outskirts of Prague and shown their accommodations — a sparsely furnished military style tent with only a small heater to warm them, just like the original Tuskegee Airmen lived in during the war. This was the Red Tails Boot Camp, designed to show the actors what it felt like to serve in the military and get them acclimated to the World War II era. Each actor was stripped of all electronic devices, given a blanket and a bunk. Then the hard work started.

"Boot camp was instrumental," McCallum says. "I needed our actors to feel the isolation, what it was like for the Tuskegee Airmen to come to Europe without knowing a soul. I wanted them to know what it felt like to be total outsiders with none of their comforts. It worked beautifully."

For Hemingway, boot camp was another step on the way to making a film that was authentic. "I really felt that in order for these actors to do it and know it, that they had to go through it," he says. "I do know that we're in the business of art and we pull from here or there, but I think you really have a better understanding when you connect with something and the actors needed that."

"They would wake us up in the middle of the night with these extremely loud firecrackers," remembers Nate Parker. "They created this stressful environment so we could somehow grasp what it must have been like to train. We checked each other. We made sure that we were all in line. It's not ‘I,' it's ‘we' and it's ‘us.' This has nothing to do with individuals. If one goes down and does pushups, we all do pushups. It's totally selfless. It's a lot of different pieces of the machine working together for a common goal."

At the end of the boot camp, the actors went through an emotional "graduation" ceremony with Hemingway pinning wings on them and handing out awards. "I think they all understood at that point that this was serious." Hemingway reflects. "Those guys went into boot camp one person and came out as their character. It was beautiful to witness."

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