Image Credit: Getty Images; Mark J. Terril/AP ImagesAretha Franklin isn’t ready to let go of her dream of Halle Berry playing her on film. On the Golden Globes red carpet, Oscar winner Berry said she’d consider the role — if she could carry a tune. She doesn’t feel she could do Aretha justice. Franklin got back in touch with Wendy Williams, upon whose show she initially revealed her casting pick, and Williams read the following telegram from the Queen of Soul on air: “I would’ve liked Halle Berry to portray the older Aretha in the upcoming biopic of my life based on my memoir, Aretha: From These Roots. She was my first choice, everything’s subject to negotiation, and she shouldn’t underestimate her own talent. There are a number of other leading ladies out there that can definitely handle the role. I never expected Halle to sing. She’s an actress, not a singer. Many actors have portrayed vocalists by lip-synching to the artists’ original recordings.”
Williams said Franklin was right, and pointed to Angela Bassett’s Oscar-nominated turn as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It. (Berry herself lip-synched when she won an Emmy for 1999’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.) But if Aretha has to go to Plan B, Williams begged her to consider casting Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) — and if not Hudson, to look at Oscar nominees Queen Latifah (Chicago) or Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).
Who gets your vote? Does it matter to you if the person portraying a singer doesn’t actually do their own vocals? It’s an interesting question. Would Jamie Foxx (Ray) and Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) have their Oscars if they hadn’t sung the parts? For Foxx, it was a total immersion into Ray Charles. You’re tempted to say Witherspoon’s vocals as June Carter were less essential than Joaquin Phoenix’s as Johnny Cash, but there’s no denying it contributed to their chemistry, which was essential to the film. The only reason I would push for Berry over Hudson is because, perhaps, it means Franklin is going to allow the script to be more revealing than that 1999 memoir. “Throughout the strangely prim book, Franklin glosses over unpleasant events, accentuating the positive to a degree that’s almost risible,” EW wrote in its review. A broken home, teen motherhood, legendary troubles with men, beefs with family members and fellow stars — that’s her story, too.