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Event Q&A Transcript
This film has been in production for a long time. When did you first hear about it? (Rick McCallum)
I first heard about the story in 1981 from George Lucas and he takes long time to do a lot of stuff. He took a long time to do Star Wars and he took a long time to do this because the story was so complex. He wanted to do the story of what racism that everyone went through in the United States and the incredible heroic dream that they had which is that film but then he also wanted to tell the stories of what happened to these guys when they came back and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement but it was just so unwieldy and so long that it took us a while to get back to the place to where we always wanted to be which was to tell an action adventure story.
In terms of the authenticity of the film, how important was the research and getting it right? (Rick McCallum and Cuba Gooding Jr)
That was actually crucial, one of the things that we did which was actually an idea that Cuba gave us was to have three of the original Tuskegee pilots who were in the late 80s and early 90s and they were with us throughout the whole writing of the script but most importantly they were with the whole cast while we were shooting in Prague. Very important. There is nothing in the story that didn’t take place, it just took place over a shorter period of time that it actually happen. Each and every event took place that is recorded in the movie – a destroyer was killed by a Tuskegee pilot so I think it would actually be better for Cuba to answer that because that was really his point.
So how much research did you do Cuba?
Well, its interesting because not only did I have (cheers from crowd), the character in the movie is not one character but an amalgamation of all of the fighter pilots back in the early 40s. Benjamin O’Davis Junior was a character we grasped onto because of his accomplishments not only in the war efforts but also in Tuskegee Albama, he set up this base camp to get these pilots trained and organised. They were the first all black fighter group which wasn’t just fighter pilots, they were nurses and doctors and as you saw technicians who worked on the planes. So it was just about getting into the feel and nostalgia of the period. You know, the pipe that I carried was something that Specky Roberts I think it was, one of the fighter pilots, carried and that was another aspect of the character that I wanted to portray so I had to get used to holding that thing and looking commanding.
How difficult was it to combine the human stories with all this incredible action? (Rick McCallum)
Well, to explain. We didn’t want to be too heavy about the film, we wanted to really explore the heroism of these guys and show them what they did and what they did was they fly brilliantly. So we knew right from the start that we wanted about an hour’s worth of film up in the air and that meant, an hours worth of filming would be about 15 or 16 hundred visual effects shots so it was very complicated. We set it out, we storyboarded, we did animatics so that that the cast could understand where they have to go and the positions that they have to take but you know, I love it. It takes about 18 months doing the visual effects and you see the first draft of it and you make a few comments and about 6 weeks later you see it again and it looks totally real so it’s a great process, it is really gratifying.
What were the challenges of producing this film? (Rick McCallum)
Well challenges were that no one wanted to make it,that was the biggest challenge. When we finally got the script we were so excited and went to all the studios and said we had this great idea for a story and everyone passed on it. And this is where George Lucas really is so great. He said, you know what I don’t care – we are going to make this anyway with our own money and then of course we got so excited because you know, we had really shown them what we could do. We went with the film, we went to all 6 studios. They looked at it and we wanted for the phone calls to come, we knew it was just going to be a case of who would pay the most and nothing happened. They all turned it down again so we then had to sell the movie and get it out on our own so I would say that was the biggest challenge of the whole process.
What message did you take from the film and what do you want other people to take from it? (Cuba Gooding Jr)
The message that I took away from this film is one of inspiration and a lot of the time, I did this movie that came out in the States called Firelight which was film about a women’s prison and a new programme where these women were allowed to go out to help fight fires and national disasters and it gave them a sense of self empowerment and courage and these women who were in this prison thought that they were nothing, that their lives were over and then they went out and did these amazing things. Same thing with this movie. These men, at a time remember when racism was rampant and obvious, they had the Jim Crow laws in the South. Blacks were not looked upon as equals and yet they did so many great things and they helped to establish a presence and they actually started the civil rights movements with their accomplishments. People should understand that it is not just about race but if you’re in poverty or if you’re physically being held down by people around you. You can overcome anything, anything, if you set your mind to it and you stay passionate about it. I want people to get a little bit of hope from the movie.