Jennifer Hudson has revealed she was chosen by Aretha Franklin to play the singer in the biopic Respect.
Following Hudson’s breakthrough performance in 2006’s Dreamgirls, which earned her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Franklin was so impressed she put forward Hudson’s name to star in a biopic about her life.
The project, however, didn’t come together until 2019. While the lengthy gestation period allowed Hudson to bring more experience to the role, the nerves didn’t completely dissipate.
Speaking to NME in an exclusive interview about filming Respect, Hudson said: “Even when it was time to film, I was still freaking out in my mind about it. But because she had said, ‘I want you to play me’, that gave me the courage to be able to get through it.
“It was like, well, if you believe I can do it, I’m willing to try.”
Respect follows Franklin’s life as a child singing in her father’s church choir to international superstardom, sparked by her 1967 hit of the same name.
“We all have a respect for Miss Aretha Franklin, but by the time you’re done with this film, I hope you walk away with a newfound respect,” Hudson added.
“When you see her humanity and all the things she overcame to prevail in life, I hope that makes you respect her even more.”
Franklin died aged 76 in August 2018, winning a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for her contributions to music in April 2019.
In NME’s four-star review of Respect, the film was praised for not just highlighting Franklin’s incredible voice, but “focussing on her life-long commitment to civil rights, from singing at MLK’s funeral to her support of Angela Davis, and refusing to gloss over her struggles with alcoholism, abuse and depression”.
Respect will be released in UK cinemas on September 10.