MGM is about to get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
EW can confirm that the studio has acquired the rights to a long-gestating Aretha Franklin biopic, with Jennifer Hudson attached to star. Hudson, who rose to fame on American Idol and won an Oscar for her feature film debut in Dreamgirls, was hand-picked by Franklin to portray her in the film.
Scott Bernstein (Straight Outta Compton) and music producer Harvey Mason (Sing, Pitch Perfect) will produce the project.
Franklin, whose career spans six decades, ranging from early days as a gospel singer to her most recent release, A Brand New Me, is known as the Queen of Soul. Perhaps most famous for her reinvention of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” she is one of the most celebrated artists in music history, boasting 44 career Grammy nominations; she was also the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2005 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Reportedly based on her memoir Aretha: From These Roots, the film has been in the works for some time. Back in 2011, Franklin told Wendy Williams she wanted Halle Berry to play her. However, Berry balked at the suggestion because of her inexperience as a singer. Singer-actress Hudson has been linked to the project since at least 2015, and in 2016, Franklin told PEOPLE she’d given her approval to one particular actress, though she wouldn’t reveal who.
On Saturday evening, Clive Davis had the internet buzzing when his annual pre-Grammys bash included a tribute to Franklin performed by Hudson. At the gala, Davis announced that Hudson was Franklin’s choice to portray her in a film, and Hudson demonstrated she was up to the challenge with the evening’s final performances of “Think” and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
Deadline Hollywood first reported the MGM acquisition.