Musician biopics were all the rage in the mid-aughts, but the tide slowed down over the last couple of years, as the energy shifted to remakes like the upcoming Lady Gaga vehicle, A Star is Born. But the success of movies like Ray, Walk the Line, and Dreamgirls, coupled with the depth of talent who can act and sing, makes a new run of biopics a sure thing. A Freddie Mercury biopic is currently being filmed. Clive Davis has now announced that Jennifer Hudson will headline a movie about the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
Davis made the announcement during his annual pre-Grammy party, which was devoted this year to honoring Jay Z and his album 4:44. Davis’ party features performances by the biggest names in music. Hudson appeared to sing a medley of Franklin songs, including “Respect,” “Rock Steady” and “Think.” Franklin was one of Davis’ first proteges, and she has handpicked Hudson to carry on her legacy for the big screen.
Davis also said Hudson is in the studio working on an album that he compared to Aretha Franklin and Adele.Davis has had a long soft-spot for the former American Idol contestant, signing her to his label in 2004. Deadline reported that the Franklin biopic has been in development at MGM, and will be produced by Straight Outta Compton producer Scott Bernstein, along with Harvey Mason, Jr., a music producer who worked on Dreamgirls. There’s no doubt that Hudson has the chops for a meaty role. She was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Dreamgirls. No director or screenwriter has been announced for the project.
Franklin’s biggest hit, Respect, was first made famous by its writer, soul singer Otis Redding, who changed the world of music forever before his untimely death at just age 26. Could the Franklin movie stoke the fires for a Redding movie? A movie about Otis Redding has been kicked around for decades. Jonathan Gould’s comprehensive biography, An Unfinished Life, was released in 2017 to mostly positive headlines. Redding was known as a stellar interpreter of music. At the time of his death, Redding had a dozen top 20 hits on the R&B charts and had released several top 5 albums. However, he died before he could truly crossover into pop music, which was still dominated by white artists. Redding’s music was extremely influential in pop, rock R&B, soul and even country music.
A redding biopic would come at a time when there is a bevy of young, talented actors who could take on the role. Donald Glover electrified Grammy audiences during his soul-tinged 2018 performance. With unlimited talent to write, act and sing, could Glover eventually get the call? Daniel Kaluuya is another option for would-be producers. Coming off his first Academy Award nomination for Get Out, Kaluuya is sure to be a big hit in Black Panther. Producers could also go with a lesser-known actor. Mississippi native Julian Walker made a big splash in his film debut in Patrik-Ian Polk’s Blackbird. He’s also appeared on BET’s series Being Mary Jane. With his southern roots and charm, Walker could certainly be ready to take on an iconic role.