BAFTA winner and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker actress Naomi Ackie has notched the role of Whitney Houston in Sony/TriStar’s biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody, which will be 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.”
The pic, which is being made with the blessing of the Houston estate, is being written by Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten.
Deadline first broke news about the project which is being produced by McCarten’s Muse of Fire Productions; Pat Houston (the 2018 Kevin Macdonald documentary Whitney) on behalf of the Houston estate; legendary 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. The key with this Houston project is that the estate has signed off on the screenplay, which grants the film to reproduce all the Houston hits. Such was key with getting Bohemian Rhapsody off the ground. Lifetime’s 2014 TV movie Whitney, directed by Angela Bassett, didn’t have consent of the Houston estate and thus was not able to reproduce all the hit singles in the multi-award-winning singer’s canon.
Ackie won a BAFTA for her role as Bonnie in the second season of Netflix’s cult series The End Of The F***Ing World. She also won a British Independent Film Award as Most Promising Newcomer in 2017 for her performance as Anna in Lady Macbeth. Last year, she played Jannah in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final instalment in the Skywalker saga, and she just recently was seen in Education, Part 4 of Steve McQueen’s acclaimed anthology series Small Axe. Ackie next will take on a leading role in heist musical The Score with Will Poulter and Johnny Flynn.