Aretha Franklin movie Respect starring Jennifer Hudson: Cast, release date, trailer and soundtrack revealed

18 June 2021, 11:30

Jennifer Hudson will play Aretha Franklin in Respect
Jennifer Hudson will play Aretha Franklin in Respect. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

The Queen of Soul's story is coming to the big screen...

Aretha Franklin was one of the most iconic singers of all time, and her life story and career is being made into a biopic titled Respect.

But who will play Aretha and when can we expect it to be released? Here's all the info you need:

  1. Respect trailer: Are there any teasers yet?

    The first teaser trailer - showing Hudson as Aretha singing the film's title track - was released in December 2019.

    A full trailer showing more clips from the film was unveiled in June 2020:

    Trailer for 'Respect' starring Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin

    We were then treated to another full trailer in May 2021:

    Trailer for Aretha Franklin biopic 'Respect'

    The first photos of Jennifer Hudson on set as Aretha were revealed in early November 2019.

    The singer was spotted inside a classic-style car on location in Manhattan’s Harlem neighbourhood.

    Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect
    Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect. Picture: Splash
    Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect
    Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect. Picture: Splash
  2. Respect release date: When will it come out?

    Film studio MGM has confirmed that Respect will be released on August 13, 2021 in the US, and September 10 in the UK. 

  3. Aretha Franklin movie cast: Who will play Aretha?

    Jennifer Hudson Sings 'Amazing Grace' at Aretha Franklin's Memorial

    In January 2018, singer and actress Jennifer Hudson was announced to be playing Aretha in a movie about her life.

    Hudson was handpicked by Aretha herself before she passed away later in the year.

    The talented star first found fame as a contestant on American Idol, and she later won an Oscar for her role in the musical Dreamgirls. She has since recorded several albums is currently a judge on The Voice UK.

    Read more: Who was Aretha Franklin's preacher father CL Franklin?

    She said: “It is an absolute honour to be a part of bringing Ms. Franklin’s story to audiences who adore her around the world. 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."

    Hudson also performed 'Amazing Grace' at Aretha's memorial service (see above).

    Also starring in the film are:

    - Forest Whitaker as Aretha's father CL Franklin

    - Marlon Wayans as her husband Ted White

    - Audra MacDonald as her mother Barbara

    - Mary J Blige as singer Dinah Washington

    - Tate Donovan as music producer John Hammond

    - Heather Headley as gospel singer Clara Ward

    - Marc Maron as producer Jerry Wexler

    - Tituss Burgess as musician James Cleveland

    - Saycon Sengbloh as Aretha's sister Erma Franklin

    - Hailey Kilgore as Aretha's sister Carolyn Franklin

    - Lodric D Collins as Smokey Robinson

  4. What songs will appear on the Respect soundtrack?

    Jennifer Hudson - Here I Am (Singing My Way Home) (Official Audio)

    We're expecting all the big Aretha hits, including 'Respect', 'I Say a Little Prayer' and 'Natural Woman'.

    There will be one original song, 'Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)', co-written by Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Hartman and Carole King, the latter of which famously wrote 'Natural Woman' and was a close friend of Aretha's.

    The soundtrack will be released on August 13.

    Read more: Aretha Franklin's 10 greatest songs ever, ranked

    “Music is such a living and breathing character in this film, as it was in Ms. Franklin’s life,” Hudson said.

    “The process of creating this song was like constructing the greatest tribute I could possibly offer to her spirit. It was the final exhale of this extraordinary project and one that I let out with complete fulfillment. Being able to do so with Carole and Jamie was an incredible privilege…

    "Our goal was to show that music was always the anchor for Ms. Franklin, in all that she did, and I hope this song illustrates the strength of her voice – both literally and figuratively – which always brought her home.”

    King added: “Writing a song with Jamie Hartman and Jennifer Hudson felt both familiar and fresh at the same time. The process of songwriting continues to amaze me. One minute there’s nothing, and then a song grows out of the seed of an idea.

    "The seed was dormant when Jennifer, Jamie, and I first met virtually. Jennifer and I had previously performed together, and I was excited about writing with her for no less than a film called Respect in which Jennifer plays Aretha Franklin!”

  5. Aretha Franklin movie plot: What years will it focus on?

    Respect covers the life of Aretha from singing as a child at her father’s church’s choir, to becoming an iconic superstar and civil rights activist.

    Producers have yet to fully reveal what years we can expect to be covered, but it sounds like it will be about Aretha's whole life and career.

    Born in March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, she began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, CL Franklin, was the minister.

    Read more: How many children did Aretha Franklin have and where are they now?

    In 1960, aged just 18, she started a secular career, recording for Columbia Records but with only minor success. Seven years later, she signed Atlantic Records, and achieved huge commercial and critical acclaim with songs such as 'Respect', '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman', 'Spanish Harlem' and 'Think'. She achieved her 'Queen of Soul' status by the end of the decade.

    She recorded a total of 112 charted singles in the US,becoming the most charted female artist in the chart's history. After her father was shot in 1979, she left Atlantic and signed with Arista Records, and found success with her role in the film The Blues Brothers and with the albums Jump to It and Who's Zoomin' Who?.

    Read more: Who is Aretha Franklin's first husband Ted White and where is he now?

    Aretha was a mother of four sons. She first became pregnant at the age of 12, and gave birth to her first child, named Clarence after her father, in 1955. The father of the child was Donald Burk, a boy she knew from school.

    In 1957, aged 14, she had a second child named Edward after his father Edward Jordan. While Aretha was pursuing her career, her grandmother Rachel and sister Erma took turns raising the children.

    The Story of... 'I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)' by George Michael and Aretha Franklin

    Her third child, Ted White, Jr, was born in 1964 and is known professionally as Teddy Richards. Her youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham, was born in 1970 is the child of her road manager Ken Cunningham.

    She married twice, first to Theodore 'Ted' White in 1961 aged 19. After a difficult marriage that involved domestic violence, they separated in 1968. She then married her second husband, actor Glynn Turman, in 1978, and became stepmother of Turman's three children from a previous marriage.

    After their divorce in 1984, Aretha planned to marry longtime companion Willie Wilkerson, but she eventually called the 2012 engagement off.

  6. Who is behind the film?

    Liesl Tommy
    Liesl Tommy. Picture: Getty

    Stage director Liesl Tommy has directed Respect, while Oscar-winning Thelma & Louise and Nashville creator Callie Khouri wrote the screenplay.

    Liesl is the first black woman to earn a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Play for Eclipsed.

    She said: “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.

    "As a filmmaker there is no greater gift than to be able to bring this transcendent chronicle of a woman’s fight for self-realisation to visual life with the enormous talents of the soulful Jennifer Hudson, Callie Khouri, and our incredible producers.”