Terrence Howard is no stranger to success. He started out in a cadre of films such as “Lotto Land,” “Dead Presidents,” “The Players Club,” “The Best Man,” “Get Rich or Dye Tryin’,” and hit pay dirt with “Crash,” “Hustle & Flow,” “Ray,” “The Brave One,” and “Iron Man.” The pinnacle of his success, he feels, is playing a Tuskegee Airman. This is not the first time he has played one. In the 2002 film, “Hart’s War,” with Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell, Howard is prisoner of war Second Lieutenant Lincoln A. Scott in a German camp.
In an exclusive interview with EURweb NY based film reporter Marie Moore, Howard was asked how was it to portray a Tuskegee Airman a second time and his vivacious reply was that it should be a common occurrence.
“This is a story that needs to be told a few times. Like George Lucas (Producer) said the other day, we’re just getting to the point where we need to do the prequel and we need to do the sequel. Those pick-up [he was referring my tape recorder because of the worried look on my face as he paced the room. I can be all the way in the other room in my house and they’re still picking me up]. We need another filmmaker,” Howard continued, “to do the sequel just because it is such an incredible story of heroism and accomplishment.”
Here’s MORE of the interview:
When did you first hear about the Tuskegee Airmen?
My daddy taught me about the Tuskegee Airmen. My daddy was real Afro-centric and thought it was extremely important that we understand where we come from completely because you know when you looked at TV at time, the pilots were white pilots. You know, the sad point today is that there were more Tuskegee Airmen than there are Black pilots today flying commercially.
Was your character a real life person?
Col. Bullard was a collection of a number leaders that helped the Tuskegee Airmen, one of them in particular being Benjamin O. Davis or Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis, who died just a few years ago. He was 30 years old at the time when they went to Ramitelli. But remember, he was called the old man because most of those boys were 19-20 years old. He had been ignored for four years at West Point and couldn’t talk to anybody. He integrated the military and strove for excellence that is exemplified in his statement he made to those kids, ‘I have the highest expectation for you.’ Now I want to make Tom Cruise wish that he were Black so he could’ve been a Tuskegee Airman. That’s the goal of this movie. I think every little White kid on this planet is going to wish that he was Black so that they could’ve flown the Red Tails.
Meet any real Tuskegee Airmen?
Yeah, Roscoe Brown, a pimp of the sky. He was the very first African American to shoot down a Jerry and the first African American to shoot down two 262 jets.
Roscoe was in charge of a summer internship I was in at New York University the summer I graduated from college and it was never mentioned that he was a Tuskegee Airman.
And that’s the thing about these angels, they never brag. They never brag about what they accomplished. So many people, members of their families are like, ‘I didn’t know that my granddaddy was a Tuskegee Airman. I didn’t know. I knew he was in the service and that’s the extent of it.’ They do their thing and that’s it. But then how many times have you seen Gabriel sit up and talk about what he did, talk about David or Daniel, saying ‘You know I was over there in the Lion’s den, then went off and was talking to Joseph and Mary. I said Mary, watch what you’re doing.’ They don’t tell anything about what they do. They just do their job.
If you had the opportunity to be a Tuskegee Airman, would you have been?
But you would’ve been taking your life in your hands, only to return to Amrica and be treated worst than an animal.
You’re taking your lives in your hands walking through the streets of Alabama anyway. So you might as well get a little glory for it. I mean, imagine getting into these planes, you know, brand new P51s, the Cadillacs of the sky. You think they got girls driving in mustangs on the ground, imagine the amount of women that they could get. They were rock stars.
Compared to all the other roles you’ve done, at what point is this?
It stands at number one right now [with regard] ‘cause every film I’ve done—I’ve done 50, 60 movies, productions, whatever. I sat with President George Bush in a theater in Houston and his wife, Barbara, sat right next to him and I had Mae Jamison, the very first African American female astronaut watching this movie Red Tails. We then screened the movie for President Obama on the 13th at the White House. Now never before, I have never heard of a movie having two presidents want to sit down and watch it.
What is the reality check here, i.e., what relevance does this film have in the 20th century when it comes to racial discrimination?
There is always going be the glory hounds inside of every race. You just set out and accomplish what you need to accomplish. To hell with what you think about me. It’s what I think about me that matter. And guess what? I’m going to make you think better. I’m going to show you that you’re better than what you think of yourself by being the best I can be.
Did you have artistic license to add anything to your lines?
Of course. Once you embody the character—
But some directors aren’t that generous?
It’s got nothing to do with them [directors]. Once you hire me, you get the whole package. You get the A side and you get the B side that doesn’t listen [Laughs]. You get all of me [he breaks out singing that classic song]. ‘All of Me. Why not take all of me.’
Did George come to the set because sometimes producers don’t show up?
Then that’s some crack head producers. Yeah, George came to the set. We worked with George. He came down there and kept everybody in line.
Did you go to the ranch (George Lucas’ often talked about Skywalker Ranch)?
Hell yeah, you gotta go to the ranch. If Chewbacca can go to the ranch, you better let me into the ranch.
When you started the cinematic journey, did you ever think you would come this far?
Yes, you got to know where you’re going. You got to have an idea. This isn’t where I’m going, this is just a moment.
Where is your music at in this point of time?
My music is where it’s always been, in my house.[laughs] It had no business being out there for everybody. My music is private, you know. You can’t sell all your tricks.
Tell me about Mandela?
I get to play him from 44-83 years old. It’s called ‘Winnie’ and Jennifer Hudson plays Winnie, so we got a nice little piece on that.
Where are you on a personal level? Are you happy?
I’m thrilled. I grew my mustache and beard back. My hair is getting long again. I’m starting to love me again.
The public never stopped loving you?
I know they didn’t but sometimes you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see as often. But seeing myself through the eyes of this Tuskegee Airman, and being forever associated with them [is wonderful]. I mean, I got Winnie coming out where I play Nelson Mandela. So I had the privilege of playing some really iconic, beautiful people and to be touched by them. Their legacy will forever be intertwined with my legacy.
With so many iconic roles, where do you go from here?
I’m about to play Marvin Gaye. I’m working on that now.
Script in and it’s been cast?
Yeah, the script and all of that.
A target date?
Will probably start in March.
What’s next after this?
Walk on water [Laughs].
“Red Tails” opens in theaters this Friday, January 20.