Jennifer Hudson to Portray Aretha Franklin in Biopic

Singer "anointed by Aretha herself to play her," Clive Davis reveals at pre-Grammy gala

Jennifer Hudson will portray Aretha Franklin in an upcoming biopic about the Queen of Soul, Clive Davis revealed Saturday at his pre-Grammys party. Credit: Jeff Kravitz

Jennifer Hudson will portray Aretha Franklin in an upcoming biopic about the Queen of Soul, Clive Davis revealed Saturday night at his annual pre-Grammys party.

Davis made the announcement while introducing Hudson at the Jay-Z-honoring gala, where the singer performed a medley of Franklin's hits including "Think," "Rock Steady" and "Respect."

"When the biopic of the great Aretha Franklin is filmed next year, the artist anointed by Aretha herself to play her is the next performer. Aretha personally told me that last week," Davis said of Hudson, who – like Franklin – is a protégé of the famed music mogul.

"This artist to us is a transcendent performer. She stops any and every show she's in. Her voice is truly incredible. When they ask, 'Where's the next Aretha, where the next Aretha will come from?' I say it's [Hudson]. She's in the studio right now recording what I hope will be a classic album... she's in the tradition of Adele, she's a singer's singer."

Davis, who recruited Franklin to his Arista in 1980, also signed Hudson after the singer appeared – and finished seventh – on American Idol in 2004. The mogul has long-proclaimed Hudson as "the next generation's Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston," another Davis protégé.

Hudson had previously staged Franklin tributes at the 2011 Grammy Awards and the 2014 BET Awards. In a 2014 interview at 92Y, Franklin talked about a potential biopic and said that Hudson and singer Audra McDonald were on her shortlist to play the Queen of Soul.

According to Deadline, a biopic about Franklin has quietly been in development at MGM. Straight Outta Compton producer Scott Bernstein will produce the film alongside music producer Harvey Mason, Jr., who worked with Hudson on the 2006 film Dreamgirls; Hudson earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls, the Broadway musical-turned-movie inspired by Motown and the Supremes. MGM have not yet recruited a director or screenwriter to guide the project.

Additional reporting by Elias Leight