Even George Lucas Had a Hard Time Finding Funding for Film With Black Leads

By Jorge Rivas Jan 11, 2012

You know it’s bad when George Lucas, the man behind ‘Star Wars’ who has two of the top 10 grossing films of all time, can’t get funding to make a movie because his lead characters are all black.

Lucas says his new movie ‘Red Tails’ is about heroes. That’s a story Hollywood loves right? The Help, The Blind Side, Dangerous Minds, Half Nelson, the list goes on…

Not exactly.

According to Lucas, Hollywood studios are not interested in financing movies unless the hero is white.

Lucas was a guest on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show on Monday and said it took him 23-years to find someone to finance his film Red Tails, about a group of African-American pilots who fought in World War II.

"It’s because it’s an all-black movie. There’s no major white roles in it at all…I showed it to all of them and they said nooooo. We don’t know how to market a move like this." 

It’s the exact same sentiment the director of ‘Pariah’ Dee Rees shared with me last month. She said she was repeatedly told her script was "too black or too gay."

"We’d go to pitch meetings and the moment we said ‘black, lesbian, coming of age,’ they would turn around, validate our parking and hand us a bottle of water," Rees said.

Taraji Henson speaking at a SAG event.

Lucas also said studios complain about movies with non-white protagonist not selling well over seas. (Sidenote: some people don’t buy that, watch the video on right.)

And that may be true if you’re only considering white audiences. A study last year by Andrew J. Weaver, a telecommunications professor at Indiana University found "minority cast members" do in fact lead white audiences to be less interested in seeing certain films.

It’s important for audiences to go see movies on opening weekends and show movie studios that there is a market for movies with lead actors of color. But ultimately it’s the studios who will be able to make a real difference.

20th Century Fox will release Red Tails to theaters nationwide on January 20th.