'Red Tails' Shows Faith, Spirit of Tuskegee Airmen

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The story of the Tuskegee Airmen has never been told on the big screen -- until now.

The new film "Red Tails" highlights the story of the black fighter pilots who fought the Germans in the air during World War II, and racial discrimination on the ground at home.

CBN News recently traveled to New York to talk with the film's cast about what it was like to make the movie, and about issues of faith.

The action-packed movie -- which debuts Jan. 20 -- stars Academy Award winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., Oscar nominated actor Terrence Howard, and a host of other young actors.

Racism during their time kept the Tuskegee Airmen on the ground for most of the war. They had to prove that African Americans could become courageous fighter pilots.

Finally, the men were called into duty under the guidance of Tuskegee Airmen commander Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Howard's character in the movie.

Terrence Howard and David Ayelowo talk about how their roles in 'Red Tails' challenged them.

Howard said his biggest challenge in approaching the role was, "Finding the power in my own voice."

Gooding plays Major Emanuelle Stance, who oversees the pilots.

"The first [Tuskegee Airmen film] was a paid HBO movie that basically dealt with the racism that the airmen had to deal with," he explained to CBN News.

"This one is a celebration of these warriors that fought and died [and it's] told in a way by George Lucas that lets kids feel like they're in these P-51 Mustangs," he said.

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Nate Parker discuss the faith of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Fellow actors Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Tristan Wilds, Elijah Kelley and singer Ne-Yo endured some pretty tough physical and educational training in preparation for the film.

"The one thing is the excellence of these men and understanding the responsibility of translating that excellence to this generation, and doing it in a way that was cool and fresh and new," Parker said. "This is about excellence."

"I don't think people understand how difficult it is to fly a P-51," Ne-Yo added. "You know, the g-force when a regular plane takes off, take that g-force and multiply it by a million and that's what it is to fly in one of those planes."

Elijah Kelley, Tristan Wilds and Ne-Yo recall their most memorable moments while making 'Red Tails.'

"You can't really move your arms ... on top of it there's a guy in another plane behind you shooting at you," he continued. "It takes an amount of physical and mental strength that is literally super human."

Kelley said the highlight of helping make this movie was, "Probably hanging out with the airmen."

"You have these guys, they are modern day heroes," he said.

Elements of the airmens' faith are sprinkled through out the film.

"Look at David's (Oyelowo) character...how can you approach a huge warship without faith that you're approaching it with God's backing?" Howard said.

Tuskegee Airman Roscoe Brown explains why this movie is so important, no matter your race.

"I'm a Christian myself and one of the things I try to live my life by is 'greater love hath no man than to lay his life down for his friend,'" Oyelowo added. "And that is absolutely what these men embodied. It was an act of self sacrifice every time they got into those planes."

"In the Christian faith, that is the absolute core of that," he said. "Put yourself on the line for your brother daily."

Several of the original Tuskegee Airmen were on set during the filming of "Red Tails," including 89-year-old Roscoe Brown. One of the film's most dramatic moments features an airman shooting down a prized Nazi jet -- something Brown did over Berlin in 1945.

"Red Tails" is rated PG-13 and opens in theaters Friday, Jan. 20.

--Published Jan. 19, 2012.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.