Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles were both in The Blues Brothers, but they’re about to be connected in a different cinematic way. According to Cinema Blend, Taylor Hackford (the writer/director of the Charles biopic Ray) is set to direct a film about Franklin’s life. Now the question becomes whether the actress playing her will also have to recreate her diner-set scene in The Blues Brothers in a meta move celebrating the singer’s acting career. If she hangs out with Charles on the set of the set, things will get even more confusingly self-referential.
Hackford is an inspired (and sort of obvious) choice, but the main difficulty here remains finding an actress who can handle the emotion and vocally portray perhaps the greatest female singer of the 20th century. The option is there to use recordings, but there’s something about that method that dulls the impact as much as an actor not quite meeting the singer’s talents. Franklin herself tossed out a wish list populated by Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson and five-time Tony award winner Audra McDonald. She also suggested Denzel Washington for the role of her Baptist preacher father.
It may be a challenge to fill her vocal chords, but at least they’re on the right track. Hopefully the project will gain traction and find the money to bring in the talent required. Something tells me it needs a cheerleader to bring in the resources (studio or otherwise) that will ensure that it plays at the top level instead of coming off like a movie of the week. Maybe that comes from years of hearing about it as a possibility, but Hackford’s presence melts the cynicism a bit. Here’s hoping for the best.