As 2022 begins, follow the rise of one of the greatest voices in Respect. Available on DVD and Blu-Ray, this biopic of Aretha Franklin is carried by the masterful interpretation of Jennifer Hudson. Three facts about this essential portrait of a woman.
20 YEARS OF THE LIFE OF THE QUEEN OF SOUL
Available on DVD and Blu-Ray, Respect is one of the films that punctuated the box office for the start of the 2021 school year. Released last September in cinemas, this first production by Liesl Tommy looks back on the incredible career of Aretha Franklin . But unlike many biopics, this one focuses on twenty years of the life of this voice of soul, between 1950 and 1970.
“It felt appropriate to start with Aretha in church, and bring her back there at the end., explains producer Jonathan Glickman. We wanted to finish with the live recording of Amazing Grace, and the film would be based on a daughter’s relationship with her father. We could thus tell his rise, the birth of the Queen of Soul.”
An angle that also allows us to explore the militant side of the artist, through his political commitment to civil rights and the fact that his father was a mentor of Martin Luther King. Having grown up in the midst of apartheid, Liesl Tommy was keen to tackle this theme: “metaphorically, I relate every little thing, in the theater as in the cinema, to my childhood in South Africa”, she explains.
A TAILOR-MADE ROLE
Under the costume as prestigious as complex of Aretha Franklin, we find Jennifer Hudson, Oscar 2007 Best actress in a supporting role for Dreamgirls. A dream for the actress, but which nevertheless sounds obvious. Hudson has indeed known Aretha Franklin closely since she had the privilege of singing in the first part of her concerts, shortly after her elimination from American Idol, tele-hook which revealed her in 2004.
“It is common knowledge that she never chose a singer or musician for her first parts, but that she preferred comedians. Despite this, she accepted that I do it, says the actress. After the incredible experience that was Dreamgirls, I had a dream, the only one that could surpass what I had just experienced: to interpret Aretha Franklin. I don’t know if she heard me, but […] she wanted to meet me.”
This meeting did not take long to convince the main interested party who immediately accepted that Jennifer Hudson embodies it. “We discussed the role, and she saw that I was very shy, she remembers. And she said ‘You’re going to win an Oscar with this role, huh!’… In fact, I was overwhelmed with joy just to talk about the role. It was really at the very beginning of the project.“A project that Aretha Franklin was unfortunately never able to see finished, she who disappeared in 2018, at the age of 76.
RESPECT FOR THE WORK
If bringing the musical rise and struggles of Aretha Franklin to the screen was a daunting challenge, so is recreating the soundscape of the era. A meticulous exercise entrusted to musical producers Jason Michael Webb and Stephen Bray: “It was tricky, because we didn’t want to be in imitation, but we still wanted to recreate the sounds of the years 67, 68.”
“We wanted to use the right microphones, the right guitars and the right percussion, to get as close as possible to what was being done at the time. We were looking for excellence, without falling into imitation, but also avoiding that the spectator leaves the story by deviating too much from the sound of Aretha.”
Still on the sound side, Jennifer Hudson, Carole King and Jamie Hartman honored Aretha Franklin’s gospel roots by creating the original song Here I Am (Singing My Way Home) in collaboration with producer will.i.am. A track present on the Respect soundtrack and nominated for the 2022 Golden Globes for best original song. “The composition of this song was for me the best way to pay tribute to him, the ultimate testimony of love in this beautiful project.”, confides Jennifer Hudson.
Rediscover Respect now on DVD and Blu-Ray.