American singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin is cited by many as one of the most influential figures of her time. Known as the ‘Queen of Soul’, Franklin was the first female singer to gain entry to the pantheon that is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The recipient of several prestigious accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest recording artists of all time.
Although it was confirmed that Jennifer Hudson would play the iconic role of Aretha Franklin in a biopic titled Respect back in January of 2018, the film finally came out in 2021. While the biopic was criticised for its poorly formed screenplay and extended runtime, Hudson and other cast members received glowing reviews for their performances.
When Hudson was asked about the reasons why Franklin chose her for this important film, she said: “I’m so mad at myself for not asking her that question!… But I feel like while we were filming, I think it goes beyond the singing and how Jennifer sings and acts. It’s within the scene when Aretha’s mother comes to her; it felt so true to my own life.”
Adding, “And in the moment I was like, ‘I don’t think I would’ve been able to tell the story without my own life experience and triumphs,’ and I feel like she saw far more than what I saw. In that moment, I said, ‘This is what it was – this is why.’ It was things that I discovered throughout the film that at least I told myself, ‘This must be the reason.'”
While reflecting on the experience, Hudson also explained what the biopic taught her about herself: “I feel like that was the takeaway for me: owning your voice. She was always big about that. And it wasn’t until she owned her voice that we got our Queen of Soul. So if we all took that moment to go within ourselves and own what we have, what king and queen lies under there?”
“Jennifer shared a lot about her friendship with Aretha Franklin and how they spoke every week and texted all the time, and that was very moving,” director Liesl Tommy revealed. “It was definitely something that we talked about a lot in the beginning and we were able to pull from in the process of making the film, because there was such love between them. And I felt that the movie had to have that same love.”
See the trailer, below.