The Whitney Houston Biopic Has Cast A Star Wars Actress As Its Lead

Following Bohemian Rhapsody’s world box office tour leading the movie to sing the rare harmony of both major Oscar attention and box office smash success, a ton of music icons are getting the biopic treatment, including Timothée Chalamet portraying Bob Dylan, Zendaya signing on to play Ronnie Spector and Jennifer Hudson’s Aretha Franklin coming in the near future. Sony has also been working on a Whitney Houston movie for some time called I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and it’s found its match in a galaxy far, far away.

28-year-old Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker actress Naomi Ackie has been cast as Whitney Houston in the film, which is expected to be released over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2022. The breakout Brit played Jannah in 2019’s conclusion of the Skywalker Saga, was also a regular on the second season of Netflix’s The End of the F*ing World and has a role in Amazon’s upcoming Small Axe film Education. Ackie is in “final negotiations” with Sony, per Variety.

The Whitney Houston movie will be directed by Stella Meghie, who previously directed rom-coms such as Everything, Everything with Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson and The Photograph with Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield. Upon the announcement, she had this to say about the decision to cast Naomi Ackie:

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.

Of course, the most difficult part of making a Whitney Houston movie is casting the role of a legend, who many have idolized and memorized every register in her voice. It’s not an easy task, by any means. Still, it sounds like the filmmakers really put a lot of tender love and care into finding the actress to front I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and Ackie really impressed. One producer on the film, Clive Davis, who has also worked on a previous Whitney Houston project, 2012's We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston, said this:

Naomi Ackie’s screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine. 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.

These are seriously some exciting words to hear alongside the casting announcement. It sounds like, for the most part, Naomi Ackie will be lip-syncing to Whitney Houston’s vocals for the film, but she’ll be focusing on embodying the star with her acting chops. Ackie is still quite new to Hollywood, with Star Wars only giving her a small role that left fans wanting more. So with that in mind, there’s still a lot we’ve yet to see from her.

This is a huge role for Naomi Ackie to take on, and it's exciting to see her take on such an iconic talent who's still deeply missed following her untimely death in 2012. I Wanna Dance With Somebody is slated for a late 2022 release, so we’ll keep you updated here on CinemaBlend as the movie continues to develop.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.