Yesterday the trailer for a forthcoming Whitney Houston biopic, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, dropped, and it’s already garnered over a million views.
By all accounts, the film looks like it’s got the potential to be a massive hit: Houston’s How Will I Know and then, of course, I Wanna Dance With Somebody blast out across the trailer as scenes show the young singer being found by an agent, having her songs played on the radio, and slowly becoming a big star, playing to thousands of people, and her famous performance of Star Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl.
But fans of Houston know that her story is not an easy one. Like so many of the world’s biggest stars, she struggled with drugs and would come to be known for her erratic behaviour – a marked change from the “good girl” image she launched her career with. She died aged 48 years in 2012.
But the trailer doesn’t go into these details. Loud, soulful and emotional, instead it’s all about the masterful singer’s rise to fame.
Here’s everything else we know about the film so far.
Who is in it?
The Sony Picures film has a packed cast. British actor Naomi Ackie, whose previous credits include Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and comedy series Master of None, plays Houston; everyone’s favourite actor turned foodie Stanley Tucci plays record producer Clive Davis; Ashton Sanders, who starred in 2016’s Moonlight, plays Whitney’s husband Bobby Brown and Tamara Tunie (Snake Eyes) plays Whitney’s mother Cissy.
Also joining the cast is Nafessa Williams (Black and Blue, Burning Sands) as Robyn Crawford, Houston’s assistant and creative director, and Clarke Peters (The Mandela Effect) as John Houston, Whitney’s father.
What do we know about the plot?
An official detail synopsis hasn’t yet been released, but IMDb describes I Wanna Dance With Somebody as: “The joyous, emotional, heartbreaking celebration of the life and music of Whitney Houston, the greatest female R&B pop vocalist of all time. Tracking her journey from obscurity to musical superstardom.”
The tagline on the trailer is: “The greatest voice of our time has an even greater story.”
Any other production details?
The film is being directed by actor and director Kasi Lemmons, who directed the acclaimed Netflix miniseries Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, the script has been written by Oscar-nominated writer Anthony McCarten, who also penned 2014’s The Theory of Everything, 2017’s Darkest Hour, 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody and 2019’s The Two Popes.
The film was announced back in spring 2020, and was set to begin principal photography the following summer.
When is it coming out?
There actually isn’t that long to wait: the film is set to be released in cinemas on December 21, this year.
Any other details?
The film has been authorised by the singer’s estate (which is also on board as a producer), meaning the film (as teased in the trailer) will be able to be jam-packed full of Houston’s greatest hits.
Houston’s sister-in-law and the sole executor of the estate, Pat Houston, said: “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!”
Record producer and Houston mentor Clive Davies (Tucci’s character) is also on board as a producer. Davies said: “From all my personal and professional experience with Whitney from her late teenage years to her tragic premature death, I know the full Whitney Houston story has not yet been told.
“I am so glad that Anthony McCarten has committed to a no-holds-barred, musically rich screenplay that finally reveals the whole Whitney whose vocal genius deeply affected the world while she fiercely battled the demons that were to be her undoing.”
Is this the first Houston film since her death?
No. In 2015 Lifetime released an Angela Bassett-directed biopic that had Yaya DaCosta (Ugly Betty) playing Houston. It had not been authorised by the estate and Pat Houston at the time, said: “I say this to all Whitney’s family, friends and fan base: if you watch this movie, watch it knowing that Lifetime is notorious for making bad biopics of deceased celebrities and brace yourself for the worst.”
A documentary about Houston called Whitney: Can I Be Me was then released in 2017. It was directed by English documentary maker Nick Broomfield and Austrian director Rudi Dolezal and was widely well-received.