Behind every legend is a human story and Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin’s journey is brought to life by Jennifer Hudson, the actress she personally picked to play the story of her life.
In the long-awaited biopic of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin’s inspirational story, Jennifer Hudson once again wholeheartedly embodies the character she’s playing. We all remember how she owned the role of Effie White [inspired by the real-life Florence Ballard from The Supremes], which secured her first Oscar for Dreamgirls (2006).
Following the rise of Aretha 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 the music icon’s journey to find her voice.
In a featurette promoting the upcoming film, we learn that Respect charts the very beginning of Aretha’s career, when she “still doesn’t know her own voice yet”.
As told by the writers, cast and crew of the film, we understand how the much-loved music icon, who died on 16 August 2018, became the Queen of Soul, turning her lived experiences into song.
The director of the film, Liesl Tommy showed that when it came to casting for the role of Aretha, there was a very limited number of people on planet Earth who could successfully take on the role and do it justice.
Liesl Tommy: “There was only a handful of people that were given the gift of that sound. So, when you’re thinking about who’s going to play her, it better be another person who has one of the greatest voices of all time.”
It came as a surprise to no one that the role went to Jennifer Hudson, Oscar-winner and more importantly, someone who is also widely regarded to one of the blessed few to have “one of the great voices of all time”.
It also helped that Jennifer knew and actually sang with Aretha. In fact, it is widely known that Aretha handpicked Jennifer to play her. One of the movie’s music producers’ Jason Michael Webb, said in the featurette: “Aretha identified in her, ‘this is who I want, this is who will be able to deliver what it is that I delivered’.”
It’s clear that Aretha and Jennifer had a very special relationship. Jennifer said: “When I look back on my career, Aretha was the blueprint of it all. It was it was like it was destiny in a way.”
“Music was Aretha’s comfort zone and that’s where her and I relate.”
We hear in the featurette that Jennifer threw herself into the role. Every song in the film, she sang live. She also studied everything about Aretha, including how she moved, going as far as hiring a movement coach to nail the Queen of Soul’s signature gait. However, most impressively, she learnt how to play the piano by taking piano lessons. She said: “I felt I can’t attempt to play Aretha if I don’t try to learn as many of her songs as I could.”
“… this is a heavy life to portray, and I wanted to honour them.”