Stella Meghie, who is directing the film for Sony’s TriStar, told The Hollywood Reporter that the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker star wowed filmmakers throughout auditions.
“We spent the better part of the last year in an exhaustive search for an actress who could embody Whitney Houston,” Meghie recounted.
“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,” she went on.
Written by Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten, I Wanna Dance With Somebody has the backing of the Houston estate and will be allowed access to the singer’s back-catalogue, with Whitney’s manager and sister-in-law Pat Houston signed on to co-produce.
“All Whitney fans have an appetite for perfection when it comes to Whitney and her legacy,” commented Houston on Ackie’s casting.
“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,” she shared.
The film’s music producer Clive Davis added: “Naomi Ackie’s screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine… I can’t imagine a better choice for this iconic role.”
Across her career, Whitney earned six Grammys with hits including Saving All My Love for You and How Will I Know. After making her acting debut in 1992’s The Bodyguard, Whitney’s cover of Dolly Parton song I Will Always Love You recorded for the film spent 14 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
She died in 2012 at age 48.