The tale of Aretha Franklin is turning into a reality. In a press statement made Thursday by MGM, Liesl Tommy has been tapped to direct Respect, the long-gestating biopic on the Queen Of Soul. Tommy's credentials are one to marvel. She made history as the first Black women to be nominated for a Tony Award for Best Direction of A Play. Tommy has also garnered five additional Tony Award nominations for her work on Eclipsed. She will also join forces with former Eclipsed star Lupita Nyong'o to direct a film adaptation of Born A Crime, an autobiographical tale based on a book by late night talk show host Trevor Noah in which Nyong'o is set to star in.
Straight Outta Compton producer Scott Bernstein and Harvey Mason, Jr., a Grammy Award-nominated music producer who has worked with Aretha Franklin and Jennifer Hudson, will produce the pic.
Jennifer Hudson, who won the Academy Award soul-stirring performance as Effie White in the 2006 musical Dreamgirls, will step into the role of Aretha Franklin. Former Nashville creator Callie Khouri has been tapped to write the autobiographical tale. In terms of its narrative, Respect will trace Franklin's tale from humble beginnings as a singer in her father's church choir to one of the world's most revered vocalist.
"The story of Aretha Franklin’s journey from child prodigy in Detroit to international supernova is rife with struggle and triumph, making her life one of the great American stories of all time," Tommy said in a statement. "As a filmmaker there is no greater gift than to be able to bring this transcendent chronicle of a woman’s fight for self-realization to visual life with the enormous talents of the soulful Jennifer Hudson, Callie Khouri, and our incredible producers.”
Hudson also matched Tommy's enthusiasm in her statement. "It is an absolute honor to be a part of bringing Ms. Franklin’s story to audiences who adore her around the world," she said in a statement. "She is one of the most iconic and talented artists of all time and what a dream come true it is to portray her extraordinary life on screen. I could not be more excited to be working alongside Liesl Tommy, a brilliant and thoughtful director, who is no doubt the perfect choice to lead the film."
Aretha Franklin died on August 16, 2018 at pancreatic cancer.