I dood it!
It’s only fair to cocktease y’all on this one, because when I saw the headline at Variety, I (very briefly) got excited over the idea of Ridley Scott directing Red Tails. But then the whole "taps Ridley to write" thing took hold, and I realized it was John Ridley of Undercover Brother fame*. Alas.
Now that our expectations are back to zilch, is there reason to believe this very middling Ridley might be able to deliver a sensational screenplay for Red Tails? According to Michael Fleming at Variety, Lucas hired Ridley after being impressed with his latest script for L.A. Riots, which may or may not be directed by Spike Lee at some point. Though we’re all highly skeptical of Lucas’s taste when it comes to writing, I’ll leave open the possibility that Ridley delivered something special – i.e. provided this "latest script" is different from the March 2007 draft I read several months ago (and it may be, since the title back then was Let It Fall). ‘Cuz that motherfucker needed some work!
But I want to be positive here. Since we’ve yet to get a Tuskegee Airman film worthy of their inspiring legacy, I’ve been hoping Lucas would get Red Tails off the ground with the right writer/director. Actually, I’ve been hoping he’d come to his senses and just give the damn thing to Spike Lee, but now Spike’s got his own World War II project going (about Buffalo Soldiers fighting the Nazis in Italy), so that isn’t happening. Bringing John Ridley aboard isn’t necessarily a bad idea; he’s been rewritten brilliantly before. It’s who Lucas ultimately hires to direct the film that matters – and his track record here is spotty (though, to be fair, this material doesn’t scream Willard Huyck or Mel Smith).
That said, this Ridley quote bothers me: "ILM will make the fight sequences come alive, and make you feel what it must have been like to be 19 and flying in a fighter plane." Or "19 and playing a killer flight sim". Hey, I could be wrong, but Lucas hasn’t been doing so hot in the "prove Jeremy wrong" department of late (if you don’t count Indy 4, and, to justify my knee-jerk cynicism for the moment, I won’t).
*"And Three Kings!", right? Allow me to quote from Sharon Waxman’s Rebels On the Backlot: "Years later, [George] Clooney was playing cards in a backroom of a Las Vegas bar while shooting the [Steven] Soderbergh film Ocean’s Eleven. A manager came back to say that someone at the front door said he’d written Three Kings and wanted to come back and say hello. Clooney said, ‘If it’s David Russell, he probably doesn’t want to see me, and if it’s John Ridley, he didn’t write Three Kings.’"