Respect is a 2021 American biographical musical drama film directed by Liesl Tommy (in her feature directorial debut), written by Tracey Scott Wilson, Callie Khouri, and is based on the life of American singer Aretha Franklin. The film stars Jennifer Hudson as Franklin. Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, and Mary J. Blige are featured in supporting roles. The film follows the first two decades of Franklin’s life, from being born as a musical prodigy in an affluent African-American family, the effect of losing her mother at age 10 to her arduous rise to international musical stardom, while simultaneously enduring an abusive marriage and constraints of patriarchy, ultimately concluding with the recording of her influential live album Amazing Grace (1971).
A film on Franklin’s life was in development for a long time with Franklin herself involved in the pre-production, however, the film languished in development hell for years due to lack of finding a suitable candidate. Following the release of the musical film Dreamgirls (2006), Franklin asked Hudson to play her but didn’t finalize her decision until seeing her in the Broadway musical The Color Purple. The film began production in early 2019 and had concluded by February 2020. The film is dedicated to Franklin who died in 2018, which was the second film to dedicate her after Amazing Grace (2018).
After much delay and postponement, due to the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic, Respect premiered in Los Angeles on August 8, 2021, and was released theatrically in the United States on August 13, 2021, by United Artists Releasing, and in other territories by Universal Pictures. The film has grossed over $31 million worldwide and received generally favorable reviews from critics, with praise for Hudson’s performance, the film’s production values, and costume design, but received criticism for its screenplay and long runtime.
VFX Done By Cinesite
Cinesite’s challenge was to create concert crowds, with seamless period detail, for two important performances in Aretha’s career. VFX supervisor Holger Voss worked closely with production VFX supervisor and producer Sean Nowlan, assisting on set and sharing the benefit of his prior experience as VFX supervisor on Rocketman.