EXCLUSIVE: Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party is always the hottest ticket before the Grammy Awards. Tonight he dropped an exceptional surprise. Davis tonight introduced Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson to sing a couple songs, and then told the audience that Hudson will be playing Aretha Franklin in an upcoming biopic about the life of the Queen of Soul. Hudson was in fact hand picked by Franklin to play the role. It was appropriate that Davis introduce all this, since he has such a long professional relationship with Franklin. The party began with performances by Barry Manilow, Luis Fonsi, Ben Platt, Alicia Keys, Khalid and Logic. Hudson was the last singer to perform. Hudson sang Franklin classics Think, and Respect as part of her performance.

Shutterstock

Deadline has been hearing about a Franklin project that MGM is acquiring and will finance. Franklin’s musical legacy spans six decades, from your first recording as a young gospel singer, to her most recent release, A Brand New Me: Aretha Franklin with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She has scored countless hits, including the reinvention of Otis Redding’s Respect as a feminist anthem that transformed her into an icon of the civil rights and women’s movements. She is one of the most honored artists in Grammy Award history, and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the NAACP Hall of Fame, the Gospel music Hall of Fame and in 2005 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Producing the film will be Straight Outta Compton‘s Scott Bernstein and music producer Harvey Mason Jr., who has worked with Franklin and also produced music for the film Dreamgirls, on which Hudson won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, alongside Beyonce. Hudson has gone on to a strong career that included the premiere of Monster, which premiered in Sundance.

Hudson seems one of the few actresses with the vocal range to do justice to Franklin’s soaring classics. MGM will move quickly to set a filmmaker and a screenwriter.