Aretha Franklin biopic star­ring Jen­nifer Hud­son lands di­rec­tor Liesl Tommy

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - People - BY NAR­DINE SAAD Los An­ge­les Times

The Aretha Franklin biopic star­ring Jen­nifer Hud­son as the Queen of Soul has found its di­rec­tor and screen­writer.

Stage di­rec­tor Liesl Tommy will helm “Re­spect,” the longges­tat­ing MGM fea­ture film about the late icon’s life and mu­sic, and Os­car win­ner Cal­lie Khouri will pen the screen­play, ac­cord­ing to a Thurs­day state­ment from Jonathan Glick­man, the pres­i­dent of Mo­tion Pic­ture Group.

Tommy di­rected an ex­cep­tion­ally vivid pro­duc­tion of Danai Gurira’s 2016 play, “Eclipsed.” The land­mark drama earned six Tony Award nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing for best di­rec­tor, mak­ing Tommy the first black woman to earn a nod in that cat­e­gory.

Her reper­toire, which in­cludes “Ham­let,” “Les Misérables” and the Dis­ney­land Re­sort’s “Frozen Live” show, aims to reimag­ine clas­sics with racially di­verse casts. She’s also on board to di­rect “Born a Crime,” a film adap­ta­tion of co­me­dian Trevor Noah’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy star­ring Lupita Ny­ong'o, who also starred in “Eclipsed.”

“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.”

Tommy also shared her ea­ger­ness to work with “the enor­mous tal­ents” of Os­car win­ners Hud­son and Khouri.

Hud­son was per­son­ally hand­picked by Franklin, who died in Au­gust at age 76, to por­tray her on the big screen, and her star- ring role was an­nounced early last year. She also per­formed “Amaz­ing Grace” at Franklin’s fu­neral.

Khouri won her Os­car for “Thelma & Louise” and cre­ated the coun­try-mu­sic drama “Nashville,” and her screen­play for “Re­spect” fol­lows the rise of Franklin’s ca­reer.

“Straight Outta Comp­ton’s” Scott Bern­stein and Gram­mynom­i­nated mu­sic pro­ducer Har­vey Ma­son Jr., who has writ­ten and pro­duced songs for both Franklin and Hud­son, will serve as pro­duc­ers of the film. Glick­man and Adam Rosen­berg, MGM’s co-pres­i­dent of pro­duc­tion, are over­see­ing the project on be­half of the stu­dio.

Hud­son, who won a sup­port­ing-ac­tress Os­car for her 2006 role in “Dream­girls,” re­garded be­ing part of Franklin’s story “an ab­so­lute honor” and said that it’s “a dream come true” to por­tray her.

“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,” the singer-ac­tress said in Thurs­day’s state­ment.

CHARLES SYKES In­vi­sion/AP

The long-ges­tic­u­lat­ing Aretha Franklin biopic ‘Re­spect’ is go­ing ahead with stage di­rec­tor Liesel Tommy set to di­rect.

Hud­son

Tommy

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