Naomi Ackie is in negotiations to play Whitney Houston in the musical biopic about the singer’s life, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” that is set up at Sony’s TriStar Pictures.
“The Photograph” filmmaker Stella Meghie is directing the film about Houston’s life that comes from a screenplay by “Bohemian Rhapsody” writer Anthony McCarten.
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is set for release on Thanksgiving 2022. The film is being made with the support of Houston’s estate and will include a look at her full life and career as well as a journey through her music.
Ackie is a British actress who broke out in “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” and in the film “Lady Macbeth.” She recently won a BAFTA for her work in the second season of Netflix’s “The End of the F***ing World,” and she can be seen in “Education,” the final installment of Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” anthology of films. She will next take on a lead role in the heist musical “The Score” alongside Will Poulter and Johnny Flynn.
Alongside McCarten’s Muse of Fire Productions, the film is being produced by Pat Houston (“Whitney”) on behalf of the Houston Estate, Grammy-winning music producer Clive Davis, Larry Mestel on behalf of Primary Wave Music and Denis O’Sullivan (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) and Jeff Kalligheri (“Submergence:), who are also financing via Compelling Pictures.
Primary Wave Music is a partner of the Whitney Houston estate. Casting director Kim Coleman is overseeing casting for the film. Nicole Brown, Shary Shirazi and Brittany Morrissey will oversee the project for TriStar Pictures.
“We spent the better part of the last year in an exhaustive search for an actress who could embody Whitney Houston. 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,” Meghie said in a statement.
“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,” Pat Houston said in a statement.
“Naomi Ackie’s screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine,” Davis said in a statement. “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.”
Ackie is represented by CAA, Hamilton Hodell, Range Media Partners, Peikoff Mahan and Personal PR.
THR first reported the news.