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Liesl Tommy to Direct Aretha Franklin Biopic ‘Respect’

Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures is moving ahead on its Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect,” tapping stage director Liesl Tommy to direct.

MGM set the project in motion a year ago when it was announced that Jennifer Hudson — who won a supporting actor Oscar for “Dreamgirls” — had been personally selected for the role by Franklin. The singer, who died in August, won 17 Grammy Awards, starting with “Respect” in 1968 and “Chain of Fools” in 1969.

Hudson proved she had the pipes to portray the legendary artist earlier this year, when she performed a rousing, pitch-perfect medley of Franklin’s hits at Clive Davis’ Pre-Grammy Gala.

MGM also said that Callie Khouri, who wrote “Thelma & Louise” and is the creator of “Nashville,” would write the screenplay following the rise of Franklin’s career, from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to a superstar.

Tradecraft’s Scott Bernstein, who produced “Straight Outta Compton,” and Harvey Mason, Jr., who has written and produced songs for both Franklin and Hudson, are serving as producers on the film.

Tommy received six Tony Award nominations for “Eclipsed,” including best director. She is also on board to helm “Born A Crime,” Paramount Players’ adaptation of the autobiography by Trevor Noah, starring Lupita Nyong’o.

“The story of Aretha Franklin’s journey from child prodigy in Detroit to international supernova is rife with struggle and triumph, making her life one of the great American stories of all time,” Tommy said. “As a filmmaker there is no greater gift than to be able to bring this transcendent chronicle of a woman’s fight for self-realization to visual life with the enormous talents of the soulful Jennifer Hudson, Callie Khouri, and our incredible producers.”

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