Naomi Ackie turns into Whitney Houston for a new biopic


A film based about the life of late pop icon Whitney Houston is destined for the big screen this winter.

Directed by Kasi Lemmons and slated for December 21, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” is billed as “an emotional and energetic journey through Houston’s career and music.” The six-time Grammy winner is played by Naomi Ackie, whose credits include “Star Wars: Episode IX ― The Rise of Skywalker” and Netflix’s “Master of None.”

Sony Pictures gave fans their first look at “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” on Thursday via a new trailer. It shows Ackie recreating some of Houston’s most memorable career triumphs, like his 1991 Super Bowl performance and the music video for “It’s Not Right But It’s OK” from 1999.

The film also stars Stanley Tucci, who is virtually unrecognizable in the trailer. The actor plays Clive Davis, the founder of Arista Records who is credited with discovering Houston at a New York nightclub in the early 1980s.

Watch the trailer for “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” below.

Actors Tamara Tunie and Ashton Sanders play Cissy, Houston’s mother, and her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, respectively.

Houston died in 2012 at the age of 48. His death was ruled an accidental drowning with the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use” as contributing factors, according to the coroner’s report.

Early responses to the film’s trailer have been mixed. Although many viewers praised Ackie’s performance, others expressed doubts about screenwriter Anthony McCarten.

A two-time Oscar nominee, McCarten wrote the screenplay for 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” about legendary rock band Queen. Although actor Rami Malek won an Oscar for his portrayal of Queen singer Freddie Mercury, the film was criticized for glossing over the singer’s sexuality and Parsi background.

Robyn Crawford (left) and Whitney Houston in 1988.

Dave Hogan via Getty Images

Like Mercury, Houston struggled with drug and alcohol abuse throughout her life. According to Brown and other sources, she was also bisexual. In 2019, longtime Houston confidante Robyn Crawford confirmed that she and the singer had a romantic relationship in the ’80s.

Whether “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” will address all of that remains to be seen. Speaking to People this week, however, Ackie said the film examines “parts of her life that we know, but through the expanse of her own internal world.”

“Fans can expect to see his life as we see ours,” she explained. “Ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments, it all blends together to form a life.”



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