'Respect': Aretha Franklin Biopic Starring Jennifer Hudson Adds Mary J. Blige, Audra McDonald, Forest Whitaker And More

October 18 2019

MGM's Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, has just added a flurry of stars to join the film, which will star Jennifer Hudson.

The all-star cast includes Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Mary J. Blige, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Heather Headley, Tate Donovan and Skye Dakota Turner. They all join Hudson, who was handpicked by Franklin before her death.

The very first authorized feature film based on Franklin’s life, it will be directed by Liesl Tommy and is written by Tracey Scott Wilson.

“I am thrilled with the incredibly talented cast we have assembled for our film, and I’m so proud that Ms. Franklin entrusted us to tell her story and to share it with the world. As a storyteller, hers is the kind of story we all dream of telling. Her music has inspired me since I was a little girl, and the milestones of her life and career have shown us all how to strive and thrive.  To have this powerhouse group of actors--and the phenomenal talent of Jennifer Hudson in this iconic role--means we have the chance of making this film as transcendent as her glorious life and legacy," said Tommy.

Whitaker stars as Reverend C.L. Franklin. Known as the man with the "Million-Dollar Voice," Franklin served as the pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Franklin was also the father of the American singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin and her manager early on in her career.  Wayans stars as Ted White, Aretha’s first husband.  McDonald stars as Barbara Franklin, Aretha’s mother. Sengbloh stars as Erma Franklin, Aretha’s eldest sister. Kilgore stars as Carolyn Franklin, Aretha's younger sister. Picked from a nationwide search, young Aretha Franklin will be played by Turner. Blige stars as famed recording artist Dinah Washington. Headley will play Clara Ward, the famed gospel artist and leader of The Famous Ward Sisters. Burgess  stars as Reverend Dr. James Cleveland, who was known as the “King of Gospel.” Maron stars as legendary Atlantic Records music producer Jerry Wexler.  Donovan stars as John Hammond, Columbia Records’ influential music producer.

The project is produced by Scott Bernstein and Harvey Mason Jr. “We were given the rare privilege to work with Ms. Franklin directly to curate the stories she most wanted to share and the moments in her life that made her who she was. Over the years, she imparted to us how important it was to her that we share her story on the big screen and how important it was to have Jennifer in this role. To have that kind of deeply personal trust and insight from Ms. Franklin was nothing short of amazing for everyone involved," said the duo.

The songs that will be exclusively featured in the film include: Respect; I Say A Little Prayer; Think; (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman; You’ve Got A Friend; Dr. Feelgood; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man; Spanish Harlem; and Young, Gifted and Black. The film will also feature Ain’t No Way; Precious Lord; There’s A Fountain Filled With Blood; Amazing Grace; and Chain of Fools.

The film begins shooting next month for release on August 14, 2020, through UA Releasing in the U.S. and internationally via Universal Pictures International.

READ MORE:

'Respect': Liesel Tommy To Direct Jennifer Hudson In Upcoming Aretha Franklin Biopic 

Photo: Getty Images

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