EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: RED TAILS Actor Marcus Paulk Reveals George Lucas Handled the Film's Reshoots

This January, LucasFilms will distribute Red Tails, a World War II epic based on the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a team of African-American fighter pilots. Among the large ensemble cast is actor/rapper Marcus Paulk, who portrays David “Dede” Watkins.

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The young actor, who's ready to take on his first action-oriented film role in Red Tails, cites the film as very inspirational; “The story is about overcoming adversity and being all you can be as a person. Caring about the people around you, and going and doing you best every time you step up, everyday… I definitely want people to be moved by the story, and I know they will.” Drama aside he stressed how much fun it is to watch as well, drawing a comparison to another popular fighter pilot film, “Top Gun has nothing on our movie.” The actors even got a chance to meet several of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen themselves. Paulk remembered the moment with excitement, “Meeting those guys was… it was next level. Getting to meet that history and talk to them, and hear the actual stories from them was amazing. There’s nothing like it from the horse’s mouth.”

Paulk described the intense training the actors underwent during production to give a sense of reality to the performances: “Right when I booked the film, they took us out to Chino to Planes of Fame, and we got to go up in the P-51 fighter planes, and experience and experience what it was like going up… We did military training for like two weeks. We did boot camp and it was just hard work. [From] building tents blindfolded to learning how to make a floating device out of my pants.” Many steps were taken to ensure that the film would feel as authentic as possible. Paulk noted that this could not only be seen in the cast’s extensive training, but also in the real bond built between the actors formed on set.

“Because of the bootcamp, it was really like a fraternity. Eating across from each other every day, and working out, and testing and seeing who can do the most push ups…. We became such a crazy team. Everyone strengthened each other and kept each other going.”

An interesting tidbit about the production, which some may find surprising regards producer George Lucas, who Marcus noted had a very hands-on approach to the film. Paulk described Lucas as working “hand-in-hand” with director Anthony Hemmingway. Lucas even got back into the director’s chair for parts of the shooting: “When we did the reshoots for some of the stuff, he did all the directing."

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"1944. World War II rages and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance. Meanwhile the black pilots of the experimental Tuskegee training program are courageously waging two wars at once -- one against enemies overseas, and the other against discrimination within the military and back home. Racial prejudices have long held ace airman Martin "Easy" Julian (Nate Parker) and his black pilots back at base -- leaving them with little to do but further hone their flying skills -- while their white counterparts are shipped out to combat after a mere three months of training. Mistakenly deemed inferior and assigned only second-rate planes and missions, the pilots of Tuskegee have mastered the skies with ease but have not been granted the opportunity to truly spread their wings. Until now.

As the war in Europe continues to take its dire toll on Allied forces, Pentagon brass has no recourse but to reconsider these under-utilized pilots for combat duty. Just as the young Tuskegee men are on the brink of being shut down and shipped back home, Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) awards them the ultimate chance to prove their mettle high above. Undaunted by the prospect of providing safe escort to bombers in broad daylight -- a mission so dangerous that the RAF has refused it and the white fighter groups have sustained substantial losses -- Easy's pilots at last join the fiery aerial fray. Against all the odds, with something to prove and everything to lose, these intrepid young airmen take to the skies in a heroic endeavor to combat the enemy -- and the discrimination that has kept them down for so long.

Produced by George Lucas and directed by Anthony Hemingway, Red Tails stars Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrence Howard, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo and Tristan Wilds and is scheduled for theatrical release on January 20th, 2012.

Comments

Pietro Filipponi  |  Managing Editor

Pietro Filipponi's picture

Whoa, wicked. Didn't know Lucas worked that in depth with the project. And it's always good to hear the actors actually experience a taste of boot camp. Really looking forward to this flick BLAM!