Lodric D. Collins, who currently stars in BET’s The Oval series, is set to play Motown artist Smokey Robinson in the MGM/Bron Creative Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect. Liesl Tommy is directing the film which has Jennifer Hudson starring as the legendary crooner. Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Mary J. Blige, Marc Maron. Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Skye Dakota Turner, Heather Headley, and Tate Donovan also co-star. The film will track the rise of Franklin's career from a child singing in her father's church's choir to her international superstardom. Scott Bernstein and multiple Grammy-nominated producer Harvey Mason Jr. are producing the pic. Aaron L. Gilbert and Jason Cloth are executive producers. Production began last month and the film will be released on Aug. 14, 2020, in the U.S. with Universal handling overseas. Collins, whose credits include Grimm, Z Nation, and The Haves and the Have Nots, is repped by Aqua Talent Agency and Brave Artists Management.
Sopranos alum Vincent Pastore has been cast in The Birthday Cake, an indie crime drama which is being helmed by first-time film director Jim Giannopoulos. He joins previously announced Ewan McGregor, Val Kilmer, Lorraine Bracco, Ashley Benson, and Shiloh Fernandez. The pic, co-written by Giannopoulos, Fernandez, and Diomedes Raul Bermudez, follows Giovanni Fernandez who, on the 10th anniversary of his father’s death, reluctantly brings a cake to his uncle, a mob boss. Just two hours into the night, Gio’s life is forever changed after he learns the truth about what happened to his father. Fernandez, Bermudez, and Siena Oberman are producing. Pastore, who was recently seen in Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga and Hawaii Five-0, is repped by Abrams Artists Agency and McGowan Rodriguez Management.
Courtesy of D2 Management
Michael Braun The Affair has joined New Regency's thriller Deep Water, which stars Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. Directed by Adrian Lyne, the film follows an attractive young married couple, Vic and Melinda Van Allen, whose mind games with each other take a twisted turn when people around them start turning up dead. The couple staves off divorce in a loveless marriage by allowing each to take lovers, but it becomes messy as Highsmith exposes the surface facade of American suburban life. The pic is based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Zack Helm and Sam Levinson wrote the screenplay. Producers are Garrett Basch, Steven Zaillian, Entertainment 360's Guymon Casady and Ben Forkner, Anthony Katagas, and Arnon Milchan. Braun, repped by D2 Management and Leading Artists, recently co-starred in The Day Shall Come indie comedy opposite Anna Kendrick.
Finally, a piece of release date news that’s not a depressing coronavirus-related delay. MGM is pushing the release date of the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, which stars Jennifer Hudson as the powerful-voiced singer, for Christmas Day, with the intention of propping it up as an awards season contender. The film was originally set to arrive in October.
Deadline reports that the “mind-blowing” dailies of Jennifer Hudson’s performance as Aretha Franklin in the upcoming biopic Respect have inspired MGM to move the film off its October 9 release date for a limited Christmas Day premiere. An expansion will follow on January 8, 2021, followed by a wide release on January 15, which is Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
A Christmas release makes for prime awards season fare, with films like 1917 and Little Women garnering plenty of buzz during the holidays last year. While the fall is generally where awards season starts, crowd-pleasing films with awards potential are generally given the coveted holiday spot, like 2016’s Hidden Figures. It’s possible that MGM sees a prestigious crowdpleaser on their hands with Respect, with Hudson likely to earn another Oscar nod with her performance. Already the film has built buzz with a sparse teaser that showed only Hudson in a classic Aretha dress, belting out the chorus of her most famous song, “Respect.”
Respect, which is directed by Liesl Tommy and also stars Forest Whitaker as C.L. Franklin, Marlon Wayans as Ted White, Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington, and Tituss Burgess as Rev. Dr. James Cleveland, is the only exclusive release on December 25 next to 20th Century Studios’ limited opening of The Duel which may move anyway since production has been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. MGM has been ahead of many studios with its shuffling of its release schedule, announcing a November release of the highly anticipated Bond flick No Time to Die early on during the coronavirus outbreak, while many major releases have been postponed indefinitely.