Whitney Houston Biopic

Following the box office success and awards acclaim of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, another biopic about a legendary singer is in the works, this time focusing on the iconic Whitney Houston.

The Whitney Houston Estate is teaming up with Primary Wave and legendary Grammy-winning music producer Clive Davis for a biopic called I Wanna Dance With Somebody, lifted from the singer’s chart-topping single from her 1987 album Whitney. Since Bohemian Rhapsody kickstarted this new wave of superstar singer biopics, it only makes sense that this one is bringing in one of the key creatives from the movie about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. 

Deadline has news on the Whitney Houston biopic, which which will be written and produced by Bohemian Rhapdsody scribe Anthony McCarten. The writer/producer previously received Oscar nominations for producing the biographical dramas The Darkest Hour and The Theory of Everything. The latter also earned him a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, an award he was nominated for again earlier this year for his work on The Two Popes. McCarten said in a statement:

“We are incredibly lucky to have the support and input of many of the key people who knew Whitney the best and who were there at the time, in the making of this film. I am working closely with all of them, to authentically tell the extraordinary story of a peerless talent, taken from us too soon. Recreating for the big screen those unforgettable performances, those beloved songs, and that incredible journey, will be an enormous responsibility, undertaking, privilege and delight for myself and for our entire team.”

As for directing duties, negotiations are currently underway for Stella Meghie to direct. She’s coming off this year’s romance The Photograph with Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield, and she’s also directed a couple episodes of both Grown-ish, the Freeform spin-off of ABC’s Black-ish, and The First Wives Club series adaptation, as well as an episode Issa Rae’s HBO series Insecure. She’s also earned Independent Spirit, NAACP and TIFF awards nominations, and she really made a hard push to land this job.

This will be a carefully supervised telling of Whitney Houston’s life since Pat Houston, the manager and sister-in-law of the late singer, will be producing the movie as executor of the Houston Estate. Joining McCarten as producers will be Clive Davis (who discovered Houston in 1983), Denis O’Sullivan, and Larry Mestel by way of his Primary Wave Music banner, a partner of the Houston Estate, which will easily allow for the use of the singer’s entire song library for the film. But will that keep the movie from honing in on the more traumatic parts of Houston’s life?

Whitney Houston’s career includes endless accolades and awards for her amazing voice, as well as an acclaimed performance in the 1992 film The Bodyguard and movies such as Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife, but there were also clashes with her family and stories of drugs, sexual abuse and psychological trauma. Deadline notes that the producers describes the movie to them as being a “joyous, emotional and heart-breaking celebration of the life and music of the greatest female R&B pop vocalist of all time, tracking her journey from obscurity to musical superstardom.” And it doesn’t sound like they’ll hold back when it comes to her woes:

“While being very frank about the price that super-stardom exacted, it will be both the rich and complex saga of the search for the perfect marriage between song and singer and audience, and at the same time the moving tale of a simple Jersey girl trying to find her way back home.”

The question is who has the chops to play Whitney Huston? Considering Stella Meghie’s experience with Issa Rae, the Insecure actress makes for a solid option, though it’s not clear if she can come close to belting a ballad like Whitney Houston could. Jennifer Hudson is also a possibility, since she has the voice to pull it off. Then again, the movie could go the same route that Bohemian Rhapsody did and not have the star of the movie do their own singing. It would be a little disappointing, but sometimes it’s necessary when there aren’t any stars who can match the singing talents of a film’s subject.

For their part, The Whitney Houston Estate says:

“The Estate of Whitney Houston is more than elated to be involved with a group of people that are as passionate about Whitney’s life story as we are. Whitney’s legacy deserves only the best that can be given. I stand with the hearts of these partners being the chosen ones to produce a film that’s uplifting and inspiring to all that loved her, giving you a reason to continue to celebrate The Voice that we all fell in love with and will cherish forever!”

I Wanna Dance with Somebody doesn’t have a studio home or release date yet, so stay tuned.

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