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How ‘Respect’ Director Shot Scene Where Jennifer Hudson’s Aretha Franklin Writes Her Biggest Hit | Wrap Video

TheWrap’s ”How I Did It“ series profiles how director Liesl Tommy showed the ”creative genius“ in the biopic

“Respect” director Liesl Tommy has been in “a million” rehearsals where musicians introduce their work to other collaborators, so she knew exactly how to stage the scene in her film where Aretha Franklin develops and writes her biggest hit, “Respect.”

“Even in the moment of genius, as an artist, you can still feel so fragile,” Tommy told TheWrap as part of the video series “How I Did It.” “For me, the exciting journey was that intimate moment caused by trauma that grows and grows and grows to something so triumphant, because I truly believe art can heal, and I believe she healed herself with her music.”

Tommy said “Respect,” the biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, is a film with themes of sisterhood and how music is capable of healing. But she wanted to go deep inside the process of how Franklin found her voice and how that moment changed everything — not just in her career, but in her personal growth.

Early in the film we see a younger Aretha Franklin singing Otis Redding’s version of “Respect.” Later on however, the meaning of the word changes for her after she reflects on her childhood. Late one night at the piano, she quickly recruits her sisters to sing backup on the song she’s playing out in her head for the first time.

The scene is also the first instance in the film where Franklin shifts from writing songs by hand to working hand in hand with her sisters and getting back to her gospel roots.

“It’s the first time we see that part start to happen, as opposed to formal musical creation with sheet music and notes, which is what was core to her,” Tommy said. “And I wanted to show as she reclaimed her musical identity, those things that she learned singing in the gospel choir came back to her.”

The scene then cuts to Franklin and her sisters performing the song for her band and her producer, and as they feel out the sound, it immediately cuts to Franklin’s headlining performance at Madison Square Garden in a sign that she’s finally become a superstar.

For more, check out the entire “How I Did It” video with Liesl Tommy above, and also hear Jennifer Hudson discuss her role as Franklin in an interview with TheWrap here.