Estate-approved Whitney Houston biopic lands director, Clive Davis producing
"The Photograph" director Stella Meghie will helm the project.
Whitney Houston's estate has found several Hollywood creatives to dance with its upcoming biopic about the late icon.
EW has confirmed The Photograph and The Weekend helmer Stella Meghie is in talks to direct a big-screen adaptation of Houston's life story — currently titled I Wanna Dance With Somebody — with Clive Davis (the record executive who discovered Houston) producing and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything) penning the script for Houston's estate and music publishing company Primary Wave.
Deadline broke the news Wednesday, also confirming that Pat Houston, Whitney's sister-in-law, will produce on behalf of the estate, along with Davis, McCarten, Primary Wave's Larry Mestel, and Denis O'Sullivan. In a statement to the publication, the film's producers indicated they would celebrate Houston's life without shying away from the circumstances surrounding her tragic death, and were interested in having McCarten board the project due to the sensitivity with which he approached past biopics like the Freddie Mercury-focused Bohemian Rhapsody and the Winston Churchill biographical drama Darkest Hour.
According to the statement, the film will be 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. 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."
Davis, who brought Houston to prominence throughout her early career, added: "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."
McCarten noted that he is "working closely" with those who knew Houston best "to authentically tell the extraordinary story of a peerless talent, taken from us too soon" with a keen interest in "recreating for the big screen those unforgettable performances, those beloved songs, and that incredible journey," which he said "will be an enormous responsibility, undertaking, privilege and delight for myself and for our entire team."
Last summer, Houston — who won six competitive Grammys and an Emmy across her legendary career selling more than 200 million records worldwide before her death in 2012 — recently notched her first single on the Billboard Hot 100 in nearly 10 years with the Kygo-assisted "Higher Love," while her likeness embarked on a hologram tour earlier this year. Primary Wave has also recently worked with Pat to reinvigorate the singer's brand, including a planned compilation of unreleased tracks from the 1985 album Whitney Houston.
Prior to I Wanna Dance With Somebody, the Houston estate teamed with director Kevin Macdonald for an intimate peek into the singer’s life via the Cannes-debuting 2018 documentary Whitney, which featured interviews with members of the star's family and inner circle, including her mother, Cissy Houston, and ex-husband, fellow recording artist Bobby Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who died in 2015. America's Next Top Model alum Yaya DaCosta portrayed Houston in the 2015 Lifetime biopic Whitney, directed by Angela Bassett, while actress Gabrielle Dennis played Houston in BET's 2018 miniseries The Bobby Brown Story.
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