INTERVIEW – The American Oscar winner for “Dreamgirls” embodies the soul legend in “Respect”, a poignant biopic that hides nothing of her idol’s flaws. An interpretation to bristle your hair, especially as she herself sings the greatest hits of the diva.
Interview by Delphine DE FREITAS –
No one will be able to say that the producers were wrong in calling upon her. Because it is Aretha Franklin herself who chose her to remake the film of her life. Jennifer Hudson slips with disconcerting ease into the shoes of the soul legend who died in 2018 for Respect, a biopic of which Hollywood has the secret. A touch of emotion, a dash of drama and a high-level interpretation.
If Liesl Tommy’s film is long (2h25 anyway), it is because it tries to tell without forgetting the birth of an icon of world music whose road to success was strewn with pitfalls.
From the choir of his father’s church in Detroit to the legendary Parisian hall of the Olympia, Respect also tells how Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits were born and how much they are linked to her personal life. Like this cover of Otis Redding which gives its title to the film, which has become a universal hymn to which Jennifer Hudson lends all the power of her voice. LCI gave him a Zoom shot in the middle of the summer.
Aretha told me to trust my own voice and kiss it
What makes Aretha Franklin the icon we know?
Oh, so many things. And I feel like the film reflects that even more. The fact that she puts her truth into her music, that she is bold enough to be who she was in the world she grew up in. I find it so honorable and we can recognize ourselves so much in her. I think that’s why she’s timeless and resonated with us so much. Many of us who were not born then only know her through her music and love her for it. But when you see the movie and when you know what the cost of everything she stood for at the time, you can only love and respect her more.
You had the chance to know her. Was there one particular piece of advice she gave you that kept you going throughout the filming of the film?
(She thinks) She told me to keep my roots and base in my faith, but also to trust my own voice and embrace it. It was essential for her and I understand it better after making the film because it was part of her journey. It’s something she needed to do. That’s why she always insisted on encouraging me to do the same.
It is important to emphasize that the film is called Respect and not Aretha. Why is this word respect so inseparable from her?
I think she has become its icon. I can’t help but think about the song. At a time like this, a woman would take a song like “Respect” which was that of a man. (Otis Redding, ndlr)… For us today, it is nothing! But when you know what women’s life was like at that time, the fact that she was so brave and courageous, that she made this song her own and made it a hymn not just for herself but for others. also… We are in the action. You can only respect that and think of her when you think of the word “respect”.
The film opens with a young Aretha Franklin who is only 10 years old. What would young Jennifer, who grew up with the music of the soul diva, have thought of you playing her in the movies?
I would first like to say that young Aretha, Skye Dakota Turner, is amazing and I want her to play me someday, okay? This movie forced me to go back and look at pictures of myself younger. Why am I doing what I am doing? I do not know. But it made me think. Because who would have known that this little girl would be setting here today doing that? I think I was looking for signs because something back then shaped me for what we’re going through now. I can’t help but think back to those times.
And what did you find by looking at those old photos?
I’m still trying to figure it out, to be honest (she laughs). I literally sat down and looked at them saying “Wow. I don’t know”. I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’m looking for.
- From “Dreamgirls” to Aretha Franklin Biopic, How Jennifer Hudson Found Her Voice in Hollywood
>> Respect – with Jennifer Hudson, Marlon Wayans and Forest Whitaker, in theaters September 8
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