What You Want? Baby, You Got It: Aretha Franklin’s Biopic Lands Black Female Director

American soul singer Aretha Franklin dancing for the cameras.
American soul singer Aretha Franklin dancing for the cameras.
Photo: Express Newspapers (Getty Images)

As long rumored, the late Queen of Soul is finally getting her just due respect via the silver screen.

The biopic on the late great Aretha Franklin is aptly titled Respect, after her most noteworthy song. According to Variety, the film is making progress as a director has been secured— Liesl Tommy will be helming the biopic.


Tommy has a stage directing background (specifically, the Danai Gurira-written Eclipsed, which earned Tommy a Tony nomination) and also has television directing credits, such as Insecure and Dietland. Callie Khouri, the woman who penned Thelma & Louise, will be the screenwriter for this project. Scott Bernstein (Straight Outta Compton) will produce (via Tradecraft), alongside Harvey Mason, Jr., who has written and produced songs for both Franklin and the star who will portray the icon, Jennifer Hudson.

As for that casting choice: If you remember, Ms. Franklin once said she wanted Halle Berry to portray her. Years later, she personally tapped Grammy winner Hudson for the role. Legendary record producer Clive Davis announced the news at his pre-Grammys party in early 2018, after bringing the Oscar winner onstage to perform a couple of Franklin’s hits.

“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,” said director Tommy. “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.”

The biopic will be the second feature on Franklin to appear in recent years; the long-awaited 2018 documentary, Amazing Grace, chronicled the making of her iconic crossover hit gospel album, but Franklin wasn’t exactly here for it. She sued producer Alan Elliott in 2011 for using her likeness without her permission.


Aretha Franklin died on Aug. 16, 2018. Here’s hoping her legacy properly lives on through this much-anticipated biopic.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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Wait until the studios cast Scarlet Johannsen.