Producers on a pair of Aretha Franklin film projects – the still-unreleased 1972 concert film Amazing Grace and the in-development biopic starring Jennifer Hudson – offered some clarity on the future of the films following the Queen of Soul’s death at the age of 76.
Speaking to Variety, producer Harvey Mason Jr. said the long-in-the-works biopic was a “primary creative concern” for Franklin in her final weeks. “She was my partner in doing this and we had a lot of hours invested with her in thinking and dreaming about how it would come out,” Mason said. “So it’s hard on all levels. It’s really hard losing a friend, but then it’s also hard losing someone who’s a national treasure and whose music has changed the world. And then on the third level, it’s hard losing a partner in a movie. Hopefully we can make a film that people can remember her by and can look to for comfort and good memories and smiles.”
Mason added, “In the last conversation I had with her last week, she was really optimistic and talking a lot about the movie — and talking a lot about how excited she was to get back on the mic. ‘I just can’t wait to get back on the mic!’ — she was constantly saying that; that was her thing.”
At Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy gala in January, the music mogul announced that Hudson had been handpicked by Franklin to portray her in the biopic. Variety reports that while making the film is still a priority for producers, the Franklin biopic still awaits a script and director to guide the project, as well as the settling of some rights issues.
Mason said that the biopic will be “based on my countless hours of conversations with Aretha and the notes that I’ve taken and things that we’ve gone back and forth on” as opposed to a previously published biography about the singer.
As for Amazing Grace – the long-completed 1972 concert film directed by Sydney Pollack that nearly premiered at the 2015 Telluride Film Festival before Franklin blocked the screening – producer Alan Elliott remained optimistic that the movie would be released.
“Ms. Franklin said, ‘I love the film.’ Unfortunately for all of us, she passed before we could share that love,” Elliott told Variety. “Amazing Grace is a testament to the timelessness of her devotion to music and God. Her artistry, her genius and her spirit are present in every note and every frame of the film. We look forward to sharing the film with the world soon.”
However, Franklin’s estate will ultimately decide whether to sign off on Amazing Grace‘s release.