Monday, July 4, 2022

‘Respect’ Director Talks Jennifer Hudson Singing Live as Aretha Franklin in Biopic

Jennifer Hudson (as Aretha1 - Respect)
Jennifer Hudson (as Aretha)

*It’s no surprise that Jennifer Hudson is showing off her dynamic vocals for her portrayal of Aretha Franklin in the upcoming biopic, “Respect.” 

“Jennifer Hudson, Audra MacDonald, Titus Burgess – everybody on-set have been on Broadway and are Tony-nominated. I know the power of singing live, so it was important. This is a movie that the songs [were] made — not in the studio — but on set,” director Liesl Tommy told Page Six.

“I have done a lot of musicals for Broadway, and I knew the songs needed to be sung live,” Tommy said.

READ MORE: Jennifer Hudson Details Playing Aretha Franklin on CBS Sunday Morning | Watch Preview

The Oscar-winner and singer previously gushed in an interview with PEOPLE about paying tribute to the Queen of Soul.

“Back in April 2003, I got to open up for her in Merrillville, Indiana, where she held a concert. That was before Dreamgirls, before I ever dreamed of playing her one day,” Hudson said. “I’ve gotten to pay tribute to her many times since then, but every time is like the first time.”

“I started piano lessons,” she said of just one of the ways she got into character. “Aretha got me back in music school. It’s still a process, but the film has made me more passionate about learning an instrument and expressing myself musically.”

Tommy told Page Six that Hudson nailed the role of Franklin when she recreated the singer’s famous entrance for the 1972 “Amazing Grace” film.

“She was really working hard on Aretha’s walk and we were looking at the video of ‘Amazing Grace,’ when Aretha was walking up the aisle, and I just said, ‘Look at her. She looks like a bride,’” she said. “Jennifer just looked at it and started moving around the stage, and she clicked into something primal, and from that moment — we all started screaming… from that moment on, she just had her in her body and in her voice.”

Franklin handpicked Hudson for the role before she passed away in 2018.

Tommy previously said this of Hudson, “Jennifer may be one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with,” she says. Adding, “we were both so humbled by the task that we just agreed that there would be no ego in the process and that Aretha would be the diva in the room at all times, not us.”

“Respect,” is slated to hit theaters nationwide on August 13. 

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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