Star Wars actress Naomi Ackie cast as Whitney Houston in biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody
The upcoming Whitney Houston biopic has found its star in a galaxy far, far away.
Naomi Ackie, who played the ex-stormtrooper Jannah in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, has been cast as the iconic singer in I Wanna Dance With Somebody, the filmmakers announced Tuesday.
As previously reported, Bohemian Rhapsody's Anthony McCarten is writing the script, and The Photograph director Stella Meghie will helm the film for Sony Pictures and its TriStar division.
Pat Houston, Houston's sister-in-law, will produce the film on behalf of the Houston estate, along with music producer Clive Davis (who discovered Houston), Larry Mestel, Denis O'Sullivan, and Jeff Kalligheri.
"We spent the better part of the last year in an exhaustive search for an actress who could embody Whitney Houston," Meghie said in a statement. "Naomi Ackie impressed us at every stage of the process. I was moved by her ability to capture the stage presence of a global icon while bringing humanity to her interior life."
Davis said Ackie's "screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine. Although Whitney's incomparable vocals are used for all the songs, Naomi's extraordinary acting range enables her to masterfully capture Whitney's unique charm, star power and, of course, her personal struggles. Naomi is the real deal and I can't imagine a better choice for this iconic role."
In a previous statement about the biopic, which will explore the life and music of the legendary singer, producers said the film won't shy away from the circumstances surrounding Houston's death, and that they were interested in working with McCarten given his sensitivity in approaching past biopics like the Freddie Mercury-centered Bohemian Rhapsody.
In addition to starring in The Rise of Skywalker in 2019, Ackie won a BAFTA Award earlier this year for her role in the series The End of the F***ing World. The British actress was also recently seen in the Education installment of Steve McQueen's Small Axe anthology, and she is set to star in the upcoming thriller The Score.
Before I Wanna Dance With Somebody, the Houston estate teamed up with director Kevin Macdonald for the 2018 documentary Whitney, which featured interviews with members of the star's family and inner circle, including her mother, Cissy Houston, and ex-husband, Bobby Brown. America's Next Top Model alum Yaya DaCosta portrayed Houston in Lifetime's 2015 biopic Whitney, directed by Angela Bassett, while Gabrielle Dennis played Houston in BET's 2018 miniseries The Bobby Brown Story.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody is slated for release over Thanksgiving weekend 2022.