The upcoming Whitney Houston biopic has reportedly cast its lead, choosing Naomi Ackie to take on the role of the late singer. The Hollywood Reporter shares that Ackie is in negotiations for the film, titled I Wanna Dance With Somebody and is set for a Thanksgiving 2022 release. Ackie has previously appeared in films including Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Lady Macbeth and television series including Netflix's The End of the F***ing World.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody will be written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Stella Meghie. "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."
"All Whitney fans have an appetite for perfection when it comes to Whitney and her legacy," added Houston's sister-in-law and former manager Pat Houston, who will produce the film on behalf of the Houston Estate. "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."
The biopic will be backed and produced by music mogul Clive Davis, who signed Houston to Arist Records in 1983 when she was 19 years old.
"Naomi Ackie's screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine," Davis said. "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."
After signing a record deal, Houston went on to become of the most successful recording artists of all time, selling over 200 million records during her career and winning numerous awards. She died in 2012 at age 48 due to an accidental drowning. I Wanna Dance With Somebody will use Houston's iconic catalogue, including her vocals, and will explore the singer's life and the many issues she dealt with.
"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," Davis previously shared. "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 bravely battled the demons that were to be her undoing."