Jennifer Hudson Is Aretha Franklin in New Biopic

Every year on the Saturday night before the Grammy Awards, music legend Clive Davis hosts an annual party, and this year he dropped some movie news at the soiree. The musician revealed that actress Jennifer Hudson has been hand-picked by music legend and the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, to play the singer in an upcoming, untitled biopic. No screenwriter or director is attached yet, but MGM is financing the project and they will reportedly “move quickly” to find a writer and director.

Clive Davis’ party began with performances by Barry Manilow, Luis Fonsi, Ben Platt, Alicia Keys, Khalid and Logic, while Hudson was the last singer to perform, belting out Aretha Franklin classics Think and Respect as part of her performance. Hudson is believed to be one of the few singer-actors with both the vocal and the acting chops needed to play such an iconic singer. There is no indication yet if this Aretha Franklin Biopic is based on any biographies of the singer, or if the 75-year-old Aretha Franklin will be involved in the production in any way, shape or form.

Aretha Franklin was born March 25, 1942, and started singing at a very young age, singing gospel songs at the church where her father was a minister. She started a “secular career” in singing by signing with Columbia Records at the age of 18, but she only found modest success. After spending six years with Columbia, she signed with Atlantic Records in 1967, travelling to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record what would be her first top 10 hit, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” in front of the musicians of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. In April of that year, Atlantic released her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” which quickly shot to #1 on the Billboard charts for both pop and R&B, and became her signature song for years to come and made her an icon for civil rights and women’s movements.

Aretha Franklin had 20 singles that reached #1 on the R&B charts and she has won 18 Grammy Awards, including the Legend Award in 1991 and the Lifetime Achievement award in 1994. She was also the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, she became a a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999, and was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. In 2011, she was ranked among the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time top artists, and landed the top spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Singers of All Time.

Scott Bernstein (Straight Outta Compton) will produce this biopic alongside Harvey Mason Jr. a music producer who has worked with Aretha Franklin in the past and also produced the music for Dreamgirls, which Jennifer Hudson starred in and won an Oscar for in 2006. Jennifer Hudson is coming off the Netflix original movie Sandy Wexler alongside Adam Sandler, and she also stars in Monster, a drama which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last week. Deadline broke the news on this casting for the Aretha Franklin biopic.

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