When we heard that Aretha Franklin hand picked Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson to portray her in a long awaited biopic on her life, we knew two things; not only would we be getting a dazzling acting performance, but Hudson’s always stellar voice would be providing much of the soundtrack to the film. While we may have to wait a little while longer to hear Hudson’s versions of Franklin classic’s like “Respect” and “Natural Woman”, the first images of Hudson as Aretha Franklin (in what looks to possibly be the 1960’s era) have been revealed.
The official MGM press release on the film states: Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) announced the award-winning ensemble cast joining Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson in the feature film RESPECT based on the life of music icon Aretha Franklin. Following the rise of Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, RESPECT is the remarkable true story of Aretha Franklin’s journey to find her voice.
The film will exclusively feature the iconic songs: Respect; I Say A Little Prayer; Think; (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman; You’ve Got A Friend; Dr. Feelgood; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man; Spanish Harlem; and Young, Gifted and Black. The film will also feature Ain’t No Way; Precious Lord; There’s A Fountain Filled With Blood; Amazing Grace; and Chain of Fools.
One of the most eagerly anticipated aspects of this film is the amount of star power that is filling the cast portraying both Franklin’s family as well as the music superstars that she encountered, befriended, and collaborated with throughout her career.
The MGM announcement goes on to say that “The Franklin family will be played by: Forest Whitaker will portray Reverend CL Franklin. Known as the man with the “Million-Dollar Voice,” Franklin served as the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Franklin was also the father of the American singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin and her manager early on in her career. Marlon Wayans stars as Ted White, Aretha’s first husband. Audra McDonald stars as Barbara Franklin, Aretha’s mother. Saycon Sengbloh stars as Erma Franklin, Aretha’s eldest sister. Hailey Kilgore stars as Carolyn Franklin, Aretha’s sister.. After a worldwide casting search, the role of young Aretha Franklin will be played by Skye Dakota Turner (Broadway’s Young Anna Mae in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical).
The MGM announcement wraps up with the announcements that Mary J. Blige stars as famed recording artist Dinah Washington. Heather Headley will play Clara Ward, the famed gospel artist and leader of The Famous Ward Sisters. Tituss Burgess stars as Reverend Dr. James Cleveland, who was known as the “King of Gospel. Marc Maron stars as legendary Atlantic Records music producer Jerry Wexler. Tate Donovan stars as John Hammond, Columbia Records’ influential music producer.
The film began shooting November 1, 2019. From MGM and BRON Creative, RESPECT will be released domestically via UA Releasing on August 14, 2020. The film will be distributed internationally via Universal Pictures International.
Kristin Callahan/ACE Pictures/INSTARimages.com,