Jennifer Hudson knew she had her work cut out for her when she agreed to play the Queen of Soul. "You just can't wake up one morning and decide 'I'm gonna be Aretha Franklin,'" said Hudson. "I mean, her voice. Her legacy. The songs. Who she is to all of us. It was daunting. There were times when I was like, 'Jennifer, what have you done?'"
The highly anticipated biopic was sanctioned by Franklin, who handpicked Hudson for the role before her death in 2018. The film chronicles the late singer's rise from her father's church choir to international stardom, shining a light on the talent and the stories behind the songs.
The film hits theaters next week after decades of planning and a year of COVID-related release delays, moves from Franklin's religious upbringing with the charismatic but controlling Reverend C.L. Franklin to her hard-won stardom of the 1960s to a spiritual return to gospel music with her highest-selling album ever, 1972's "Amazing Grace."
Henry Riggs (from left) stars as Tommy Cogbill, Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin, Hailey Kilgore as Carolyn Franklin, Saycon Sengbloh as Erma Franklin, Alec Barnes as Jimmy Johnson, John Giorgio as Chips Moman, Marc Maron as Jerry Wexler and Joe Knezevich as Tom Dowd in “Respect.”Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures
Jennifer Hudson stars as Aretha Franklin in “Respect.” Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures
Jennifer Hudson stars as Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington in “Respect.”Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures
Marlon Wayans stars as Ted White and Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in “Respect.”Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures
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Hudson says the atmosphere around the “Respect” set was always upbeat. “That’s the beautiful thing about it — the entire cast, from the director down to the extras, everybody was there out of love,” she explains.
“There was never a day of frustration or irritation. Everybody was truly there and committed, ’cause we knew what we were there to do and who we were there representing. It’s just done out of love and respect for (Franklin).”
There’s a palpable excitement within the “Respect” camp that the film is finally coming out after no less than four previous release dates. “I’ve been excited about it for years,” producer Bernstein quips, “now the rest of the world gets to experience it.”
In addition to this week’s theatrical release, “Respect” is headed to some film festivals, along with an eventual home video release, and Hollywood’s 2022 awards season is in the team’s sights as well.
“Respect,” the Aretha Franklin biopic, opens Friday, Aug. 13, in theaters.