*Stella Meghie is out as director of the Whitney Houston biopic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and Kasi Lemmons has been tapped to replace her.
Lemmons told Deadline: “Early in my writing career I developed two projects for Whitney and I had the opportunity to meet her. She was a tremendous, incomparable artist and her story is as awe-inspiring as it is tragic. I feel privileged to be part of bringing her life story and music to the audience.”
British actress Naomi Ackie will portray Houston in the forthcoming Clive Davis/Sony biopic. The film follows Houston’s life and rise to fame. The legendary singer passed away in 2012. Davis previously said that the project will be a “no holds barred” portrait of the artist, and he won’t sugar-coat anything.
Speaking to Variety, Davis, who signed Whitney to her record contract and was her mentor, said, “I have a mission here. I have a mission to make sure that for all time that the full picture of Whitney Houston is captured in a no-holds-barred film that is musically rich and shows her genius and more of her character than we have seen to date.”
In the Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Davis explained that he and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “The Two Popes” screenwriter Anthony McCarten teamed to develop the script and to raise their own financing.
“Properly telling the honest, ‘no-holds-barred’ story of Whitney Houston is an exceptional responsibility,” said Davis. “Kasi Lemmons not only brings a highly-acclaimed, award-winning track record but possesses a clear understanding of Whitney as the matchless icon who triumphed musically while valiantly struggling with addiction.”
Ackie is best known for her role on Netflix’s “The End of the F***Ing World.” She’s also starred in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and Steve McQueen’s new anthology series “Small Axe”.
Ackie said: “Preparing to play Whitney Houston has been an incredible experience. I’ve learnt so much more about her and myself than I could have imagined. I’m so excited to get on that film set and honour her legacy! With Kasi on board, I know we can create something truly wonderful.”
“Naomi Ackie’s screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine,” Davis told Variety. “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.”
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is set to release the week of Thanksgiving 2022.