Jennifer Hudson ‘overwhelmed’ by pressure of Aretha Franklin role

Jennifer Hudson is feeling “overwhelmed” by the pressure to perfect her performance as Aretha Franklin in an upcoming biopic.The singer is stepping into the Queen of Soul’s shoes for the upcoming musical movie, Respect, and told As If Magazine she “cou…

Jennifer Hudson is feeling “overwhelmed” by the pressure to perfect her performance as Aretha Franklin in an upcoming biopic.

The singer is stepping into the Queen of Soul’s shoes for the upcoming musical movie, Respect, and told As If Magazine she “couldn’t be more humbled, intimidated and excited” by the honour of portraying the “iconic” diva.

“It’s a blessing, but scary at the same time. I go to sleep listening to Aretha, and I wake up listening to Aretha. I just want to do her justice and do the best job I possibly can,” she said. “To take on the lifespan of the career and legacy of this iconic figure is a huge responsibility. Even the way she spoke was so beautiful. I’m trying to pay as much homage to her as I possibly can.”

The former American Idol contestant was close with the Think hitmaker, and revealed the star gave her “pieces into her life” before her death at the age of 76 in August 2018.

“When people are that iconic it’s easy to forget they had a life and that they are more than just an entertainer,” the 38-year-old shared. “They are a person, they’re a sister, they’re a child, they’re a wife, they’re a friend… In our conversations she was teaching me more about life than her life.”

Respect, also starring Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Mary J. Blige, Audra McDonald, and Tate Donovan, is expected to hit cinemas in October.

© Cover Media

Cats getting visual effects update – report

Universal executives are reportedly sending movie theatres an updated version of Cats with improved visual effects. Tom Hooper’s star-studded adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics ahead…

Universal executives are reportedly sending movie theatres an updated version of Cats with improved visual effects.

Tom Hooper’s star-studded adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics ahead of its opening on Friday, and it was subsequently a flop at the U.S. box office, coming in fourth with takings of only $6.5 million (£4.9 million).

According to a copy of a memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Universal executives notified thousands of theatres on the movie’s opening day that they will be receiving an updated version of the troubled film with “some improved visual effects”.

The updated movie was available to download Sunday via a satellite server, while cinema exhibitors who don’t have access to the server technology will receive the version via hard drive by Tuesday. Universal executives reportedly asked cinema officials to swap the prints over as soon as possible. They stated the movie’s running time will not be affected.

Cinema operators and Hollywood bosses have claimed the move is unheard of for a title that is finished and already released. Insiders noted the switch was being done at Hooper’s request.

The Les Miserables director revealed to Variety at the Cats world premiere in New York City last week that he had only completed the film the day before.

“I finished it at 8am yesterday after 36 hours in a row of putting finishing touches on, so I’m very happy to be here with it fully finished and we’ll let the audience decide,” he said.

Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that the filmmaker wanted to make more tweaks to certain CGI effects.

The musical, which stars Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, and Jason Derulo, is currently rated 18 per cent fresh by critics on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, while the audience score sits at 60 per cent.

© Cover Media

Tom Hooper ‘grateful’ for mixed response to first Cats trailer

Tom Hooper is grateful for the harsh response the first Cats trailer received as it helped him change some elements of the film.In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Les Miserables director confessed he was “entertained” by the polarising reac…

Tom Hooper is grateful for the harsh response the first Cats trailer received as it helped him change some elements of the film.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Les Miserables director confessed he was “entertained” by the polarising reaction the preview clip garnered on social media when it dropped back in July and was motivated to work more on the special effects that transformed stars such as Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, and Taylor Swift into felines.

Hooper added that he used some of the feedback to redesign “every single cat to some extent, whether small or large”.

“I think probably my original dream to use a lot of the human face had gotten perhaps a bit lost in that process of rushing to make that first trailer,” he explained, noting that he wanted to emphasise the more human features in each cat’s face.

“I really concentrated on bringing back the actors’ faces because when you’ve got Ian McKellen or Judi Dench or Taylor Swift, why would you not want to? I don’t know if that’s what the comments were asking for, but what I took from it was that I needed to reconnect with my original plan and make sure I was delivering on that.”

The filmmaker, who won an Academy Award for The King’s Speech in 2011, also noted that his team had tested out prosthetics on the actors, similar to those used in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running stage musical, but they fell flat.

Accordingly, Hooper decided to use visual effects, keeping the actors’ facial expressions while adding tails, whiskers, and fur – though he had to wait for the technology to catch up to his vision.

“Even three years ago, when I described what I wanted to do, people said, ‘It’s not technically possible,'” the 47-year-old recalled.

Cats, also starring James Corden, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, and Francesca Hayward, hits cinemas from 20 December.

© Cover Media

Cats receives scathing reviews

Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of Cats has received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics.The movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical was subject to ridicule when the trailer first dropped in July, with social media users poking fu…

Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of Cats has received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics.

The movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical was subject to ridicule when the trailer first dropped in July, with social media users poking fun at the digital fur technology used to make the actors – including Idris Elba, Jason Derulo, Judi Dench, and Taylor Swift – look more like felines.

Despite Hooper making changes to the film based on the feedback, he didn’t do enough to win over critics, according to reviews published on Thursday morning.

“Nine may not be enough lives for some of the stars to live down their involvement in this poorly conceived and executed adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical,” read Peter Debruge’s review in Variety. “This uneven eyesore turns out to be every bit the Jellicle catastrophe the haters anticipated, a half-digested hairball of a movie in which Hooper spends too much energy worrying about whether the technology is ready to accommodate his vision and not enough focusing on what millions love about the musical in the first place.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney called the actors’ appearance “off-putting”, criticised the film’s “aesthetic ugliness”, and said Jennifer Hudson “massacred” her character Grizabella’s key song, Memory.

Tim Robey from Britain’s Daily Telegraph gave it zero stars and described it as “an all-time disaster – a rare and star-spangled calamity which will leave jaws littered across floors and agents unemployed,” adding, “With its nightmare production design and nauseating lurches in scale and perspective, it might be the ugliest big-screen musical sequence ever mounted.”

Peter Bradshaw from Britain’s The Guardian gave it one star and called it “a purr-fectly dreadful hairball of woe” and Johnny Oleksinski at the New York Post wrote that Hooper had “completely abandoned the fundamentals of what made Cats a terrific show: sublime music, captivating dance and an intoxicating atmosphere.”

Cats opens in cinemas on Friday.

© Cover Media

Jennifer Hudson reading Aretha Franklin’s movie notes for new biopic

Jennifer Hudson is keen to follow every piece of advice left by Aretha Franklin regarding her planned movie biopic in order to honour the late legend’s memory.The Queen of Soul handpicked the Dreamgirls star to portray her in the long-gestating project…

Jennifer Hudson is keen to follow every piece of advice left by Aretha Franklin regarding her planned movie biopic in order to honour the late legend’s memory.

The Queen of Soul handpicked the Dreamgirls star to portray her in the long-gestating project before her death last year, and Hudson is eager to learn as much as possible about Franklin’s vision for the film, titled Respect, so she can make the singer proud from beyond the grave.

“Those are huge shoes to fill,” Hudson acknowledged of the tall task ahead of her. “I am just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time. All I want to do is pay tribute to her and meet her requests, you know? Like, ‘Aretha said do this?’ – ‘Yes, ma’am.'”

“We were in talks a long time about me playing her,” she continued on U.S. talk show Sunday Today. “So I just hope I make her proud (and) do her justice.”

Hudson isn’t the only singer/actress to bring Franklin back to life onscreen – Harriet star Cynthia Erivo will play the music icon in anthology series Genius: Aretha Franklin.

In October, Patti LaBelle revealed she was helping Hudson prepare for the role.

“She wanted to come to my house and go over my back-in-the-day moves when I was singing with Aretha, and all of the things from our back-in-the-day time (sic), so she wants me to help her with this movie by giving her some info,” she said on Watch What Happens Live.

And the veteran Lady Marmalade hitmaker has assured Franklin’s fans Hudson will do her late pal’s legacy justice, gushing, “That’s my baby girl. She’s phenomenal!”

Respect will be directed by Liesl Tommy and star Forest Whitaker, Mary J. Blige, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, and Tituss Burgess. It is expected to be released next summer.

© Cover Media

Tom Hooper didn’t finish Cats until day before its world premiere

Tom Hooper was still working on his movie adaptation of stage classic Cats up until the day before its world premiere.The big screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, starring Judi Dench, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, and Jason Derulo, had its…

Tom Hooper was still working on his movie adaptation of stage classic Cats up until the day before its world premiere.

The big screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, starring Judi Dench, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, and Jason Derulo, had its world premiere in New York on Monday night.

Speaking to Variety on the red carpet, Hooper revealed it really was the first time anyone had seen the movie – as he was still adding the finishing touches on Sunday morning.

“I finished it at 8am yesterday after 36 hours in a row of putting finishing touches on, so I’m very happy to be here with it fully finished and we’ll let the audience decide,” he said. “I think we’ve come a long way since our first trailer.”

He went on to acknowledge that his last-minute approach is pretty unusual in the film industry, adding: “Premieres should be the first time people get to see it and this is genuinely a premiere.”

After the first trailer was released to divided opinion back in July, Hooper explained in an interview with Empire magazine that they had only finished filming in March and the visual effects, which involve covering the actors in digital fur, were still being worked on.

“All the visual effects were at quite an early stage,” the 47-year-old said. “When you watch the finished film, you’ll see that some of the designs of the cats have moved on since then, and certainly our understanding of how to use the technology to make them work has gone up, too.”

Cats opens in theatres 20 December.

© Cover Media

Judi Dench sent Taylor Swift candy during Cats shoot

Judi Dench supplied Taylor Swift with candy while they were working on the upcoming movie adaptation of Cats.The pair star alongside Jason Derulo, Rebel Wilson, Idris Elba, and Jennifer Hudson in Tom Hooper’s big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webbe…

Judi Dench supplied Taylor Swift with candy while they were working on the upcoming movie adaptation of Cats.

The pair star alongside Jason Derulo, Rebel Wilson, Idris Elba, and Jennifer Hudson in Tom Hooper’s big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic stage musical.

Speaking with British Vogue magazine, Swift revealed her veteran co-star made her feel right at home during the shoot and even had her favourite candy sent to her dressing room after discovering she was a fan.

“She’s lovely. I remember being on set, and there is one scene that Idris and I do with Judi, and someone walked up to me with this kind of gummy candy and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve never had this before, this must be British candy, this is amazing,'” she recalled in the joint interview with Lloyd Webber. “I was raving about this candy so much and Judi must have overheard me, because the next day I got to my dressing room and there was a signed photo from Judi and, like, six bags of it.”

Elsewhere in the chat, the composer revealed he wanted the part of Old Deuteronomy to be written as a woman so Dench could have a part, as she was supposed to originate the role of Grizabella in the stage musical but had to withdraw after she snapped her Achilles tendon.

“I had this idea, which I ran past Tom, that we could make Old Deuteronomy a woman. Seeing her perform this time was quite an emotional thing for me, because it was a very, very sad day when she had to leave the original show.”

Cats hits cinemas from 19 December.

© Cover Media

Nicole Scherzinger ‘devastated’ over Cats movie snub

Nicole Scherzinger was left devastated when the casting director for Cats refused to see her audition, despite a successful turn in the stage musical.The Pussycat Dolls singer was nominated for an Olivier Award for her portrayal of Grizabella in the We…

Nicole Scherzinger was left devastated when the casting director for Cats refused to see her audition, despite a successful turn in the stage musical.

The Pussycat Dolls singer was nominated for an Olivier Award for her portrayal of Grizabella in the West End revival of the show in 2014, and was due to take on the role on Broadway before pulling out.

In a new interview with Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, Scherzinger admitted she would have loved to have been involved in Tom Hooper’s upcoming live-action movie adaptation, but the casting director refused to see her audition.

“That really upset me, I won’t lie about that. I was devastated,” she said. “I just wanted to be given a fair opportunity – then you can turn me down. Turn me down to my face, at least, and they didn’t.”

The singer famously fell out with Cats composer Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2016 after she pulled out of the Broadway transfer of the stage show just before rehearsals were due to begin so she could return to judge The X Factor U.K singing competition.

However, in the new interview, Scherzinger insisted the theatre mogul and his wife Madeleine are “like family” to her in London, with Madeleine even comforting her over the phone about the Cats movie snub.

Jennifer Hudson will take on the part of Grizabella in the film, which also features Idris Elba, Jason Derulo, Taylor Swift, and James Corden.

Nicole will be keeping busy though, as she’s reuniting with the Pussycat Dolls for a comeback performance on The X Factor: Celebrity on Saturday – before they head off on a tour of the U.K. and Ireland together next year.

The comeback jaunt gets underway in Dublin, Ireland on 5 April and will wrap up with a show at London’s The O2 on 17 April.

© Cover Media

Tom Hooper using digital fur technology for Cats movie

Director Tom Hooper has employed digital fur technology to make his actors look more feline in movie musical Cats. The Les Miserables filmmaker recruited a star-studded cast which includes Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson and Ian…

Director Tom Hooper has employed digital fur technology to make his actors look more feline in movie musical Cats.

The Les Miserables filmmaker recruited a star-studded cast which includes Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson and Ian McKellen for his movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit stage musical.

Rather than cover his actors in cat-like make-up like the cast in the stage show, Hooper is employing new digital fur technology to make them look more feline.

“We’ve used digital fur technology to create the most perfect covering of fur,” he said in a behind-the-scenes featurette.

“Tom’s pairing them with a level of technology which I don’t think has ever been used before,” talk show host/actor James Corden explained. “These are people, but they’re cats, and this is kinda of blowing my mind. There is nothing else like it.

“I think it really could only be done by a director like Tom Hooper, he really understands the spectacle of Cats.”

In addition to the digital fur, the crew also built oversized practical sets that have been scaled up so the actors will look cat-sized onscreen.

“The scale of this film is huge, three or four times bigger for the cat perspective,” Idris explained, while Judi added, “It’s a massive undertaking, a kind of Alice in Wonderland experience,” referring to the moment when classic literary character Alice shrinks down in size.

In the video, the veteran actress, who will play Old Deuteronomy, explained how the movie has a special significance for her because she was due to play Grizabella in the original stage production of Cats in 1981 but had to be replaced by Elaine Paige.

“I was cast in 1981, just before we opened, and I snapped my Achilles tendon, and I thought that that was my history with Cats, but it turns out not to be,” she said.

The video shows the cast, which also includes Jason Derulo and Rebel Wilson, rehearsing and walking around the oversized sets, such as a diner called the Milk Bar, and Idris and Taylor running through their joint musical number.

The look of the actors will become clearer when the trailer is released on Friday.

© Cover Media

Boy George biopic in the works

A big screen biopic about the life of Boy George is in development.Following the success of recent films like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, which chronicled the lives and careers of gay icons Freddie Mercury and Elton John, respectively, the Culture…

A big screen biopic about the life of Boy George is in development.

Following the success of recent films like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, which chronicled the lives and careers of gay icons Freddie Mercury and Elton John, respectively, the Culture Club star is now getting ready for his close-up.

To be overseen by executives at MGM Studios, the film will be written and directed by Sacha Gervasi.

“Boy George is a trailblazer and a true original,” the My Dinner with Herve filmmaker, who has daughter Bluebell with Spice Girl Geri Horner, told Deadline. “In the London clubs of the ’80s, George was impossible to miss, and everyone knew he would be a star long before the world had ever heard a note of Culture Club’s iconic songs.

“As you can imagine, George’s life story is wickedly entertaining, yet also poignant and inspiring. I’m both honoured and excited to be the one to guide it onto the big screen.”

George, born George O’Dowd, has been open about his tough upbringing in an Irish working-class family and his substance abuse issues, which will both feature in the movie, as well as his success as the singer with Culture Club.

He has written two bestselling autobiographies, which Gervasi will mine for his project.

Following the announcement, George took to Twitter to share his excitement.

“An @MGM_Studios movie about a boy from Eltham, who bunked the bus, skipped School and went on to sell 150 million records. It’s just amazing. Yes. I know there’s more!!!!!” the 57-year-old wrote.

MGM studio heads are also set to start work on a new Aretha Franklin movie, with Jennifer Hudson portraying the soul legend.

© Cover Media