It’s time to show Jennifer Hudson some R-E-S-P-E-C-T! The first teaser trailer for the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic officially arrived on Friday, December 20, just ahead of the Christmas holiday — and it’d be hard to imagine the late Queen of Soul not showering the American Idol alum with the highest of praise.
The 44-second preview features Hudson, 38, showing off her vocal chops as she belts out the first verse to Franklin’s hit track “Respect.” The song’s name pops up behind Hudson’s Aretha at one point before she begins to spell out, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Though viewers are gifted with yet another glimpse at Hudson’s vocal range, the teaser doesn’t provide much beyond this little snippet.
Directed by Liesl Tommy, Respect is inspired by the true story of Franklin and her rise to fame. Hudson stars alongside Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Skye Dakota Turner, Tate Donovan and Mary J. Blige.
Franklin died on August 16, 2018, in Detroit after suffering from pancreatic cancer. She was 76 years old. The year of her death, the “Natural Woman” songstress hand-picked Hudson — who later performed at Franklin’s funeral service in August 2018 — to play her in the upcoming MGM biopic.
“Those are huge shoes to fill,” Hudson told Sunday Today on December 14. “I am just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time. All I want to do is pay tribute to her and meet her requests, you know? Like, ‘Aretha said do this?’ — ‘Yes, ma’am.’”
The Dreamgirls actress added, “We were in talks a long time about me playing her, and so I just said I hope I make her proud, do her justice. Again, I have big shoes to fill.”
Respect isn’t the only major project on Hudson’s radar. On Friday, audiences can see the Academy Award winner tackle the role of Grizabella in the movie adaptation of Cats, a film based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical. The film boasts a star-studded lineup that includes Idris Elba, Dame Judi Dench, James Corden and Taylor Swift.
Speaking with Newsweek, the “Spotlight” singer opened up about how she prepared to tackle the role of Grizabella and perform the iconic song “Memory.”
“A huge part of her story is told through ‘Memory,’ so [its] significance was not lost on me,” she told the publication on Thursday, December 19, of playing Grizabella. “We spent a lot of time dissecting who Grizabella was, which helped to form her look and how she moved. I thought a lot about her past and how that would affect the heaviness in her walk or the brokenness in her facial expressions.”
Hudson also noted that fans of the Cats play will likely find the film to be “an exciting new way to see the story come alive.”
Respect hits theaters in 2020.