Hollywood runs to the pop diva-turned-actress with a classic film offer

By Meredith Berkman
October 15, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

What a difference a year, an album that sold 9 million copies, and a movie that grossed $122 million make. Before the release of The Bodyguard last November, Whitney Houston was yet another singer- turned-fledgling actress. Now she’s joined Julia Roberts and Demi Moore on Hollywood’s A list and has the town drooling over reports that she’ll remake one of the movies’ greatest love stories—A Star Is Born.

”It’s a natural for Whitney,” says Warner Bros. executive Rob Guralnick. ”We were already talking about doing it, but after The Bodyguard it became something specifically tailored to her.” Houston, whose asking price has soared since discovering the greatest love of all with bodyguard Kevin Costner, is not yet committed to doing the movie, which Quincy Jones and Joel Silver will coproduce. But her management team—including her father, John Houston, and assistant Robyn Crawford—rejected the first draft, partly because of excessive profanity. However, her camp plans to discuss a revised script with Warner.

A source close to the project says the update, in which Houston would play a backup singer on commercial jingles, draws its inspiration from the 1954 Judy Garland-James Mason A Star Is Born, a musical version of the original 1937 tearjerker starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor. Houston, 30, watched all three versions of the show-biz saga about a self-destructive actor and the Hollywood hopeful he weds (including 1976’s update starring Kris Kristofferson and Houston role model Barbra Streisand) at the end of 1992, shortly after Warner contacted her about the project.

If Born is a go, who gets to play her leading man? Word of mouth has put Denzel Washington on the inside track. ”He’s aware of the project,” says a spokesman for the Oscar-winning actor, ”but he’s never seen a script and has not been contacted by anyone.” Insiders are also talking up Wesley Snipes, but a source says Eddie Murphy tops the producers’ wish list. Murphy, remember, was once linked romantically to Houston in the tabloids, and his career could use some stardust.

Warner is also working with ex-Columbia chieftain David Puttnam to develop Serenade, a romance between a singer and a composer, for Houston. ”We’re very involved in the Whitney business right now,” says Guralnick, who isn’t alone in thinking Houston has it all. Hundreds of scripts have flooded her agency, William Morris, and the offices of Houston’s New Jersey-based production company, Nippy, Inc. ”We don’t have to make shoes fit,” says her agent, Nicole David. ”We have many options.”

Among the contenders are a Disney-based project with producer Joe Roth, who is convinced that he’s got the perfect Houston vehicle-a gospel romance. ”Whitney would play a church singer in a small town,” says Roth, who adds that he has talked to Snipes about costarring. Now working on Julia Roberts’ latest, I Love Trouble, Roth believes Houston could be on the same fast track as his current star. ”Whitney hasn’t done (what Julia’s done) yet,” he says, ”but she has proven that people are interested in seeing her-all over the world.”

Also in the running is Fox’s ”Untitled Whitney Houston Project,” a romantic drama about a young singer who comes to New York to launch her career. Even though Houston and her father discussed the project with Fox pre-Bodyguard, the studio knows landing her will be no easy feat. ”Light a candle for me,” jokes Fox’s president of worldwide production, Tom Jacobson. ”A lot of people want to make a movie with Whitney Houston.”

Additional reporting by Jeffrey Wells