Respect movie | release date, cast, plot and news for Aretha Franklin biopic

If an Aretha Franklin biopic is what you want, then baby you got it.

Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect

Aretha Franklin is arguably the greatest soul singer of all time – and so playing her in a biopic was never going to be an easy feat, but based on a recently released clip it looks like Jennifer Hudson is well up to the task.

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A new minute-long excerpt from the film sees the Oscar-winner give a storming performance of the Queen of Soul’s most iconic track – and the one from which the film gets its name – Respect.

It’s been a long wait for the film, which has been hit by many pandemic-related delays, but it looks like the latest UK release date is going to be kept, meaning there’s just a month before the film hits cinemas.

The film charts Aretha’s life and career – with Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald and Mary J Blige all in the supporting cast – and Husdon has said that playing the main role feels like “destiny”.

“When I look back at my career, Aretha was the blueprint of it all,” she said in a clip from a recent featurette. “It’s like it was destiny in a way.”

Directed by Liesl Tommy and written by Tracey Scott Wilson, the MGM film will follow Franklin from her humble beginnings in her father’s church choir to being a Billboard-topping musical legend.

Here’s everything you need to know about Respect, when it’ll arrive in UK cinemas and who is leading the cast.

Respect movie release date

Confirmed: Respect is now due to land in US cinemas on 13th August 2021. Universal has now confirmed the UK release date is 10th September 2021. 

The film was originally set for release on 14th August 2020, however, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the film’s arrival date was pushed back to the 15th January 2021, before the further delay, which was announced in October 2020.

Hopefully with cinemas now allowed to reopen in the UK, Respect won’t be delayed any further.

Jennifer Hudson and Marlon Wayans in Respect
Jennifer Hudson and Marlon Wayans in Respect
MGM

Respect plot

This biopic tells the story of legendary US singer-songwriter Aretha Franklin (Jennifer Hudson) as she attempts to find her voice in 1960’s America and make her mark on  the music industry.

Directed by Insecure and and Jessica Jones’ Liesl Tommy, the film follows the rise of Franklin’s soul career “from a child singing in her father’s church choir, to her international stardom”.

While MGM has given us just a glimpse of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson as the I Say a Little Prayer singer, judging by the trailer, we can expect to see the Dreamgirls star belt some of Franklin’s greatest hits throughout the film.

Audra MacDonald, who plays Aretha’s mother in the film, has revealed that the film will delve into the darker moments of the soul singer’s life, potentially surprising some viewers who have grown up listening to her voice.

“It’s a part of Black American culture — if you’re of a certain age, Aretha was in your house in some way, shape, or form. I don’t remember my life without her voice,” MacDonald told Entertainment Weekly. “So I don’t want to say I was surprised at what I learned, but in some ways it made sense because the depth to which she goes to the bottom of her soul, to the bottom of her toes when she sings, that has to come from someone who’s known all of it — known joy, known sorrow, known absolute pain and grief.”

Hudson added: “I think she [Aretha] grew her shield, her wall, at a very early age, and the way she found to express herself was through her music. That was her outlet.”

For more information, read all we know about the Respect’s true story.

Respect trailer

Yes, a trailer for the film debuted in May, opening with a younger Aretha being given a singing lesson and teasing several key moments from her career from her childhood through to superstar status.

The trailer is soundtracked by some of Aretha’s most classic hits – with Think, Respect and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman all featuring prominently in the two-and-a-half-minute clip. Check it out below.

More recently, MGM released a featurette in which Jennifer Hudson chats about portraying the legend that is Aretha Franklin and we get a peak at what filming was like behind-the-scenes.

And in early August a short clip was released that gave a sneak preview of Hudson giving a performance of Aretha’s most famous track – Respect. You can check it out below.

Respect’s first trailer debuted at the BET Awards on 29th June 2020, teasing fans with a clip of Hudson singing one of Franklin’s most well-known hits (from which the film gets its title) and whilst showcasing Mary J. Blige, Marlon Wayans and Marc Maron in their supporting roles.

The trailer also features Hudson delivering one of Franklin’s most famous lines: “You have got to disturb the peace, when you can’t get no peace.”

Respect cast

Dreamgirls’ Jennifer Hudson stars as the Queen of Soul and appears to put her Academy Award-winning vocals to use throughout.

Respect also features Forest Whitaker (The Crying Game, Black Panther) as baptist minister and civil rights activist CL Franklin, while Marlon Wayans (the Scary Movie franchise, White Chicks) portrays Franklin’s first husband Ted White.

Broadway legend Audra McDonald (Beauty and the Beast, The Good Wife) plays Franklin’s mother Barbara, and acting opposite her is Marc Maron (GLOW, Joker) as music producer Jerry Wexler, Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) as composer James Cleveland and Mary J. Blige as singer Dinah Washington.

Other cast members include Tate Donovan (Hercules, The OC), Heath Headley, Kimberley Scott, Saycon Sengbloh and Hailey Kilgore.

Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker in Respect
Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker in Respect
MGM

Respect soundtrack

Carole King and Jennifer Hudson are teaming up on an original song together for Respect called Here I Am (Singing My Way Home). The song will be the only original track on the soundtrack for the movie. Here I Am was co-written by Jamie Hartman and produced by will.i.am.

The new track is set for release on Friday, 18th June and the full soundtrack will follow on 13th August, the same day as the film’s US release.

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

“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.”

Of course, King wrote (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman with her song-writing partner Gerry Coffin which Franklin covered meaning King has come full circle.

King said: “I’m so pleased to have not just one but two songs as part of the Respect soundtrack: the 21st-century song Here I Am (Singing My Way Home) and my 20th century co-write with Gerry Goffin, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

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Respect will be released in UK cinemas on 10th September 2021. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our handy TV Guide.