Whitney Houston Biopic Casts Naomi Ackie in Lead Role After ‘Exhaustive Search’

In announcing the ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ star’s casting as the late singing legend, director Stella Meghie praises ‘her ability to capture the stage presence of a global icon.’

AceShowbizWhitney Houston biopic has found its lead star. BAFTA winner and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” actress Naomi Ackie has landed the role of the late R&B diva in the project titled “I Wanna Dance with Somebody“.

Stella Meghie, who is on board to serve as director, issued a statement on Tuesday, December 15 to announce Ackie’s casting. “We spent the better part of the last year in an exhaustive search for an actress who could embody Whitney Houston,” she said.

The filmmaker cited the actress’ impressive skills when explaining why she was eventually chosen for the part. “Naomi Ackie impressed us at every stage of the process,” she gushed. “I was moved by her ability to capture the stage presence of a global icon while bringing humanity to her interior life.”

Meghie, who is known for her works behind the lens on feature films such as “Jean of the Joneses” (2016), “Everything, Everything” (2017), “The Weekend” (2018) and “The Photograph” (2020), will direct the biopic based on a script written by “Bohemian Rhapsody” scribe Anthony McCarten.

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Pat Houston will produce the movie on behalf of the Whitney Houston estate, along with music producer Clive Davis, McCarten via his Muse of Fire Productions and Larry Mestel for Primary Wave Music, which is a partner of the Whitney Houston estate. Denis O’Sullivan and Jeff Kalligheri will produce and finance for Compelling Pictures, while Nicole Brown, Shary Shirazi and Brittany Morrissey will oversee the project for TriStar Pictures.

Davis, who was Houston’s longtime mentor, has also spoken up on Ackie’s casting for the biopic. Echoing Meghie’s sentiment, he said in a statement released via The Hollywood Reporter, “Naomi 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.”

The Houston estate added, “All Whitney fans have an appetite for perfection when it comes to Whitney and her legacy. To transform someone into a matchless icon is virtually impossible. But with careful consideration, Naomi Ackie was selected based on her quality performances and her deep commitment to emerging into the woman that we all loved. We look forward to taking this journey with her.”

With the consent of the Houston estate, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” will be able to use Houston’s catalog, including her vocals. A 2014 Lifetime TV movie about the late superstar, “Whitney“, directed by Angela Bassett, wasn’t approved by the Houston estate and thus was not able to reproduce all the hit singles in the singer’s canon.

The upcoming feature film has been billed as 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.”

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