As if the Grammys aren’t full of enough surprises, record producer Clive Davis announced beforehand that Jennifer Hudson will portray Aretha Franklin in a biopic about the iconic singer’s life. She was reportedly handpicked for the role by Franklin herself.
Davis, who recruited Franklin to his Arista in 1980, also signed Hudson after the singer appeared – and finished seventh – on American Idol in 2004. The mogul has long-proclaimed Hudson as “the next generation’s Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston,” another Davis protégé.
Davis dropped the news after Hudson sang a few of Franklin’s hits during a performance at his pre-Grammy party on Saturday. Davis has worked extensively with both artists, producing or executive producing three of Hudson’s albums and working with Franklin for decades. Franklin even led a tribute to Davis last April, saying, “What a wonderful, caring, caring humanitarian.” So, it seemed natural for him to play a part in the upcoming film about the Queen of Soul.
According to Deadline, a biopic about Franklin has quietly been in development at MGM. Straight Outta Compton producer Scott Bernstein will produce the film alongside music producer Harvey Mason, Jr., who worked with Hudson on the 2006 film Dreamgirls; Hudson earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls, the Broadway musical-turned-movie inspired by Motown and the Supremes. MGM have not yet recruited a director or screenwriter to guide the project.
Hudson, who’s currently a judge on The Voice, has not yet publicly commented on the role. But with her singing career and vocal range, she’s more equipped than most to play Franklin in the upcoming film — no lip-syncing necessary.