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Aretha Franklin story coming to National Geographic "Genius" series

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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The long-in-the-making Aretha Franklin biopic may end up on smaller screens.

The National Geographic channel has announced that Franklin will be the next subject of its "Genius," series, which has previous told the life stories of Albert Einstein and Pablo PIcasso. The Franklin series will be helmed by Pulitizer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, who's also executive producing the project with longtime Franklin cohort Clive Davis. An early 2020 premiere is expected.

There's no word on who will portray Franklin, who passed away Aug. 16 at the age of 76 following a battle with pancreatic cancer, in the series; She had hand-picked Jennifer Hudson, among the many singers at her Aug. 30 funeral, to play her in the biopick. Geoffrey Rush played Einstein and Antonio Banderas was Pablo Picasso in the previous "Genius" series.

In a statement, Davis said that, "Aretha and I shared a 40-year friendship, ever since she cooked me dinner to talk about working together to reinvigorate her career. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with her and her incredible instrument. She was a gift to the world, one that will last for many generations. I am thrilled to be celebrating her genius."

Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment and Ron Howard are also involved in the producing the series. The "Genius" team has secured the rights to many of Franklin's biggest hits, including both studio recordings and live performances.

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