Red Tails’ star Terrence Howard picks up some presidential salutes

RED TAILS is gaining momentum and the highest praises.  Like EIGHTH WONDER the novel which is set in the antebellum south and surrounds the remarkable blind autistic slave who began playing Mozart at three, the WWII film is based on a powerful true story.

                        President Obama has a screening of film backed by George Lucas; George H.W. Bush gives a thumbs-up

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Published: Thursday, January 12 2012, 6:00 m

Updated: Thursday, January 12 2012, 6:00 AM
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	Terrence Howard (r.) gets a closeup with his ‘Red Tails’ co-star Cuba Gooding Jr. (l.) and filmmaker Spike Lee at the New York premiere.<br /><br />

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Terrence Howard (r.) gets a closeup with his ‘Red Tails’ co-star Cuba Gooding Jr. (l.) and filmmaker Spike Lee at the New York premiere.

If you’re known by the company you keep, then these days you can call Terrence Howard presidential.

After the suave Hollywood actor recently screened his new movie, “Red Tails,” for former President George H.W. Bush, he’s due to watch it with President Obama at the White House on Thursday.

Howard, who stars in the movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of African-American fighter pilots to serve in the U.S. armed forces, told us Tuesday at the New York premiere of the flick that he’s “way past excited” to screen it for Obama.

“That shows you the significance of this film,” Howard said.

Howard was part of a starry crowd at the Ziegfeld Theatre that included the movie’s executive producer, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, Howard’s castmate Cuba Gooding Jr., filmmaker Spike Lee and the voice of Darth Vader, actor James Earl Jones.

On the red carpet, Howard recalled watching the film with Bush 41 and his wife, Barbara, at a private screening.

Howard told us he “shared popcorn” with the former commander in chief and said “Red Tails” got the presidential seal of approval because the 87-year-old Bush “stayed awake” for the entire movie.

The film likely brought back a flood of memories from Bush’s days as a Navy pilot in the Pacific during World War II.

Howard said Mrs. Bush’s reaction was much more emotional. He noted that she was “crying at the end” of the picture.

When we asked the actor if he consoled the former First Lady, he shook his head.

“I’m not touching another man’s wife,” he said with a smile.

Also on the red carpet, Lee praised Lucas for the bold move of personally financing the film.

The “Do the Right Thing” director told us, “I’m going to get on Twitter and all that stuff” to promote “Red Tails” and will be “praying” for its success.

Lucas reportedly spent nearly $100 million of his own fortune to produce and market the picture because he couldn’t convince a major studio to gamble on a big-budget action-adventure movie that featured an all-black cast as well as a black director and screenwriter.

The “Star Wars” creator is betting the action-packed “Red Tails,” which opens Jan. 20, has blockbuster potential, although he told USA Today that if the movie doesn’t work, “I realize that by accident I’ve now put the black film community at risk.”

Lee told us he staunchly disagreed with the assertion.

“I have great respect for George, but I don’t think any film can determine whether black cinema lives or dies,” Lee said.