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Aretha Franklin On Biopic: Will Focus On Early Years; Halle Berry Is Indeed Interested; Has Director

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 22, 2011 at 6:35AM

Aretha Franklin's talking about her biopic again... although, in all fairness, she was asked! :)
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Aretha Franklin's talking about her biopic again... although, in all fairness, she was asked! :)

Is this thing every going to see the light of day? Who knows? But I'll say that all the pre-production chatter (the film doesn't have a cast or budget yet) certainly doesn't hurt public awareness of and interest in it.

She most recently spoke about the film project (and more) with Oakland County, Michigan's Daily Tribune news paper, where she'll be performing live in concert this Thursday.

Here are the interview's key items, with regards to the film:

- First she's asked what the latest on the project is; her reply:

We are still hammering things out, all of the different financial aspect. We're hammering those out at this point. It's still moving, though, and we're moving towards closing.

- So, does she have a director this baby yet?

We do, but I don't want to use his name until it's on the doted line. I can tell you that he's had several blockbusters in the last five to maybe 10 years. Go back to the movie "Ray."

Ok, wait a minute... did she just unknowingly reveal who the film's director will be with that last sentence? The director of Ray, Taylor Hackford? Or is she saying that the director has had several blockbusters since Ray was released? Hackford hasn't had "several blockbusters" in the last 5 to 10 years. Ray is his biggest hit making $75 million on a $40 million budget; while I'd guess it was profitable, I wouldn't necessarily call it a "blockbuster." But that's really it for Hackford in the last 10 years. He directed a few other films during that period, but none was as successful as Ray.

In fact, considering her "several blockbusters in the last five to maybe 10 years" comment... seriously, is there a single director who can claim "several blockbusters in the last five to maybe 10 years"? Maybe Christopher Nolan is directing the Aretha Franklin biopic, because he's the first name that comes to mind. Who else can you guys think of?

Or is Aretha just talking shite here trying to prop up her project?

- So who's Aretha's choice to play her in the movie?

I'm still thinking between several ladies, and then there is the director's book that we're going to go through. There's some people who don't have as big a name as other people, but they definitely have the fit and the ability to pull it off, so going to look through that book with them. But my personal choice at this point is still Halle Berry, who I saw at the Oprah (Winfrey) event and told me, "Aretha, I want to play you. I didn't know that I wouldn't have to sing." I said, "No, no one ever expected you to sing, Halle. I never thought of you as a singer."... A lot ot movies come out where it's the original artist and they're songs are lip-sung to. That is what it would turn out if it's Halle. If not, if for instance it's Jennifer Hudson, she might sing one or two, but the rest would still be my original records. We're definitely going to use the original records. I may re-record some things, too.

Ok, so wait a minute again... Halle Berry has been her #1 choice forever now; however, when word started to really spread about Aretha's interest in Halle for the part, which ineveitably got back to Halle, you may recall that Ms Berry shut down the rumors, saying, “I can’t sing! If I could carry a tune, I’d consider it. Someone should tell Aretha that I can’t do her justice.” Aretha replied publicly as well, soon after, saying, "[I] never expected (Berry) to sing. It was more about her likeness, and the fact that she has (acting) experience. But I guess she wasn't confident in her ability to lip-sync."

So now it seems that Aretha is saying that she's since had a chat with Halle about the part, and, from the paragraph above, Halle is now saying that she does want to play Aretha, since she now knows that she wouldn't have to sing...?

Is that how you guys are reading this, just so I know I'm not misinterpreting her words and get chewed out by her people via email?

Another thing, why don't these folks just pick up the damn phone and call each other? First Aretha says Halle is interested in the film; Halle says she's not; then Aretha now says they ran into each other at an event, and they talked about the project. Pick up the damn phone and talk to one another.

- And what's the film's story going to focus on?

Well, it is going to be a chronological depiction of my advent from Detroit to New York as a young, aspiring singer... It's going to be pretty straight-up, some things that are known, and some things that are not known.

Ok, so it looks like it won't be a birth-to-death biopic, but will instead zoom in on her early years as a "young, aspiring singer" as she put it; and I actually like that idea better. I'm not a fan of birth-to-death biopics; too much life to cover in 2 hours. Focusing on a few years, months, or even a week or a day in a life is, I think, much more manageable.

But that makes her fascination with Halle playing her in the film all-the-more confusing. Halle is in her mid-40s, and while she still looks damn good for a 45-year old woman, I don't quite see her playing an 18 to 30 year old Aretha Franklin - the years when Aretha released her first single, through her most popular period in the late 60s early 70s. Can't see it at all Ms Franklin.

She mentions the director of the film having his/her own list of actresses to play the part, some more known than others; as I've said before, when it comes to films about real-life people, I think going with unknowns is wisest. They come into the role with less baggage. Of course it helps if they can act too :)

So ther ya have it folks... not really sure what to make of all this and how seriously to take any of it. I'll be looking out for another statement from Halle Berry :)

The full interview can be found HERE.

This article is related to: casting, Things That Make You Go Hmm...


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