MGM today announced the award-winning ensemble cast joining Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson in the feature film Respect, based on the life of music icon Aretha Franklin. Following the rise of Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, Respect is the remarkable true story of Aretha Franklin’s journey to find her voice.
Hudson, who was personally hand-picked by Franklin to play her in the film, is joined by a stellar cast of stars including Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy winner Forest Whitaker; Marlon Wayans; Tony, Grammy and Emmy winner Audra McDonald; Multiple Grammy-winning, and Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Mary J. Blige; Marc Maron; Emmy nominee Tituss Burgess; Tony nominee Saycon Sengbloh; Tony nominee Hailey Kilgore, Tate Donovan, and Skye Dakota Turner.
The first authorized feature film based on Franklin’s life, Respect is directed by Tony nominee Liesl Tommy (Broadway’s Eclipsed) and is written by Emmy nominee Tracey Scott Wilson (The Americans, Fosse/Verdon).
Said Tommy, “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.”
The producers are Scott Bernstein (Straight Outta Compton) and multiple Grammy-nominated producer Harvey Mason Jr. (Dreamgirls), who has produced music for both Aretha Franklin and Jennifer Hudson.
Said Bernstein and 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.”
The film will exclusively feature the iconic songs “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.”
Forest Whitaker (Godfather of Harlem) stars as Reverend CL 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.
Marlon Wayans (On the Rocks, Sextuplets, Marlon) stars as Ted White, Aretha’s first husband.
Audra McDonald — the winner of a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and an Emmy — stars as Barbara Franklin, Aretha’s mother.
Saycon Sengbloh (Broadway’s Eclipsed, The CW’s In the Dark, ABC’s Scandal) stars as Erma Franklin, Aretha’s eldest sister.
Hailey Kilgore (Broadway’s Once on This Island, NBC’s The Village, Amblin/Apple’s Amazing Stories) stars as Carolyn Franklin, Aretha’s sister.
After a worldwide casting search, the role of young Aretha Franklin will be played by Skye Dakota Turner (Broadway’s Young Anna Mae in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical).
Mary J. Blige (Mudbound) stars as famed recording artist Dinah Washington.
Heather Headley (Broadway’s Aida) will play Clara Ward, the famed gospel artist and leader of The Famous Ward Sisters.
Tituss Burgess (Dolemite Is My Name, Unbreakable KimmySchmidt) stars as Reverend Dr. James Cleveland, who was known as the “King of Gospel.”
Marc Maron (Joker, GLOW, Sword of Trust) stars as legendary Atlantic Records music producer Jerry Wexler.
Tate Donovan (Rocketman) stars as John Hammond, Columbia Records’ influential music producer.
Franklin landed over 100 singles in the Billboard charts, including 17 Top 10 pop singles and 20 No. 1 R&B hits, 18 Grammy Awards, and was the first female to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Her reinvention of Otis Redding’s “Respect” as a feminist anthem transformed her into an icon of the civil rights and women’s movements. Her cultural impact was felt throughout her career, from her singing at Dr. Martin Luther King’s memorial service to performing at three presidential inaugurations.
The film begins shooting November 1, 2019. From MGM and BRON Creative, Respect will be released domestically via UA Releasing on August 14, 2020. The film will be distributed internationally via Universal Pictures International.