Editor’s note: Deadline’s Read the Script series debuts and celebrates the movie scripts that will be factors in this year’s movie award race.
When it came to summing up the epic life, prodigious talent and seismic impact of the iconic Aretha Franklin, the creative team behind Respect had a huge tapestry to draw from. But the challenge was exactly which aspects of the Queen of Soul’s enormous legacy should be highlighted?
“We wanted to have an arc,” said screenwriter Tracey Scott Wilson, who crafted the story in close collaboration with her longtime collaborator, director Liesl Tommy. “We weren’t trying to create Aretha Franklin as she was, larger than life; we were trying to see how she had become that. So it was about a 10-year-old girl named Aretha…instead of trying to show the world the Aretha they think they know.
Even before Scott and Tommy’s involvement, the film’s lengthy development period stretched back years before Franklin passed away in 2018, and the R&B diva actively helped producers focus on the aspects of her life that thought she formed the essence of her. story, as well as the selection of Jennifer Hudson to play it.
“We worked with Ms. Franklin to find the right paradigm,” says producer Jonathan Glickman. “It’s always hard to say, ‘We’re just going to focus on this period of life.’ But it felt very natural that we would start the movie with Aretha in church, and in order for it to end appropriately, we wanted to end with her in church, so we knew we were going to end at the taping of the movie. live album “Amazing Grace”.
“The backbone of the story would be a film about a father-daughter relationship, and it allowed us to tell the period of her rise and the origin story of her transformation into a queen of soul,” adds Glickman.
Wilson – like Franklin, a preacher’s daughter – acknowledged the internal conflict that erupted when the singer had to deal with her father’s imperfections. “When she broke up with her father, she broke up with the church and she had to find her own faith,” says the screenwriter. “I understand this struggle. This is a very common struggle with the preacher’s children. Once you realize your father is human, you’re like, ‘Wait, my God. God is everything wrong? ”
At the heart of the film was a powerful sense of the then-emerging feminist movement which Franklin embraced during her journey, which contributed to her rise; the singer in turn gives impetus to the movement, especially with regard to black women.
“She was learning these lessons of feminism and that at the time, feminism had a ride, so it was kind of happening at the same time,” Wilson says. “One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Aretha sings ‘Natural Woman’ and all these women look at her, with no men around, and sing the song to her. It’s just a powerful moment. .
Respect was released in August by MGM and United Artists Releasing, with the biopic’s worldwide sum now exceeding $31 million. Hudson was just nominated for a SAG Award for the picture.
Click below to read Wilson’s screenplay, based on a story by her and Callie Khouri.