The Jennifer Hudson-starring Aretha Franklin biopic has recruited a director and writer to bring the Queen of Soul’s life story to the big screen. MGM announced Friday that Liesl Tommy, an award-winning stage director who has also helmed episodes of The Walking Dead and Insecure, will serve as director on Respect, while Oscar-winning Thelma & Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri will pen the film’s script.
“The story of Aretha Franklin’s journey from child prodigy in Detroit to international supernova is rife with struggle and triumph, making her life one of the great American stories of all time,” Tommy said in a statement.
“As a filmmaker there is no greater gift than to be able to bring this transcendent chronicle of a woman’s fight for self-realization to visual life with the enormous talents of the soulful Jennifer Hudson, Callie Khouri, and our incredible producers.”
Hudson, who was handpicked to portray Franklin prior to the singer’s death in August 2018, said in a statement, “It is an absolute honor to be a part of bringing Ms. Franklin’s story to audiences who adore her around the world. She is one of the most iconic and talented artists of all time and what a dream come true it is to portray her extraordinary life on screen. I could not be more excited to be working alongside Liesl Tommy, a brilliant and thoughtful director, who is no doubt the perfect choice to lead the film.”
Straight Outta Compton producer Scott Bernstein and Grammy-nominated music producer Harvey Mason Jr. will produce Respect, which follows Franklin’s career from a gospel-singing child to the Queen of Soul. MGM did not reveal an estimated release date for Respect.
“Over the years and in our many meetings and countless conversations with Aretha, we came to understand the stories she most wanted to share and the moments in her life that made her who she was. It was an honor to have gotten that insight directly from Ms. Franklin and we are now taking the utmost care in upholding her legacy. We are thrilled that Jennifer, Ms. Franklin’s first choice, will be portraying her as we bring this inspirational and legendary life story on the big screen as she wanted,” the producers added.
The biopic is the second Franklin-centric film to hit the big screen since the singer’s death; the unreleased 1972 concert film Amazing Grace is also set for a theatrical release this spring after being shelved for decades.