The Whitney Houston estate is moving forward with an official biopic about the late singer tentatively titled I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
In a statement, producers described the film 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. 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.”
Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten will write a screenplay for the film on spec. McCarten has earned four Oscar nominations, and he’s particularly seasoned in the world of biopics with The Theory of Everything, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Darkest Hour and The Two Popes.
“We are incredibly lucky to have the support and input of many of the key people who knew Whitney the best and who were there at the time, in the making of this film,” McCarten said in a statement. “I am working closely with all of them, to authentically tell the extraordinary story of a peerless talent, taken from us too soon.”
A director for the film has yet to be officially announced, though a press release notes that Stella Meghie is in “advanced talks” to helm the film. Meghie’s most recent movie was the romantic drama The Photograph, while past efforts include Jean of the Joneses and The Weekend, plus episodes of Grown-ish and The First Wives Club.
Houston’s estate, represented by its executor and Houston’s sister-in-law, Pat Houston, will produce the film alongside Houston’s longtime mentor and label boss, Clive Davis. Larry Mestel, whose Primary Wave Music struck a publishing partnership with the Houston estate in 2019, will also produce.
“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 said in a statement. “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.”
Pat Houston added, “Whitney’s legacy deserves only the best that can be given. I stand with the hearts of these partners being the chosen ones to produce a film that’s uplifting and inspiring to all that loved her, giving you a reason to continue to celebrate The Voice that we all fell in love with and will cherish forever!”
News of the official Houston biopic comes several years after Lifetime aired an unauthorized film about the singer’s life with Angela Bassett in the starring role. The film earned the ire of the Houston estate, with Pat Houston saying at the time, “If you watch this movie, watch it knowing that Lifetime is notorious for making bad biopics of deceased celebrities and brace yourself for the worst.” A separate documentary directed by Nick Broomfield titled Whitney: Can I Be Me was released in 2017.