Whitney Houston, ‘The Bodyguard’ and beyond: her career in film
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Whitney Houston, like other mega-selling pop stars from the 1980s and 1990s, didn’t undertake a vast film career. But after churning out music hits for most of her 20s, the singer, who died Saturday at a Beverly Hills hotel, decided to make a go of it on the big screen.
She began in 1992 with ‘The Bodyguard,’ a performance-themed romance that proved her Midas touch extended to the movies. Houston decided to try playing a version of herself, tackling the part of Rachel Marron, a pop star who hires a former Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) after learning she is being pursued by a stalker.
The critics weren’t kind -- Houston was nominated for a Razzie for her performance -- but audiences ate it up. The film went on to become the seventh-highest grossing movie of the year. And ‘I Will Always Love You,’ a Dolly Parton song that Houston covered in the film, became one of the singer’s most well-known numbers.
Houston continued scratching the movie itch with several more starring roles, and also performed an original song and even produced movies in the year to come.
In 1995’s ‘Waiting to Exhale,’ Houston decided to try a literary adaptation, signing on to sing and star in the film version of Terry McMillan’s novel. Houston played Savannah Jackson, a TV producer who is in love with a married man.
The critics weren’t that much kinder this time around, but the movie was hailed for its social significance: It was a mainstream release with an all-black cast and was a hit to boot. Houston also sang the movie’s ‘Exhale (Shoop Shoop),’ which became one of her more popular tracks.
Shortly after ‘Exhale,’ in 1996’s ‘The Preacher’s Wife,’ Houston got in the Christmas spirit, playing Julia Biggs, the title character who is also a choir mistress. Penny Marshall directed the comedy, a remake of a 1947 picture.
It performed respectably enough and also gave Houston a chance to sing on-screen again. Indeed, the movie was notable for its soundtrack, which packed in the Houston-sung gospel tracks and became one of the biggest gospel albums of all time.
In 1998’s ‘The Prince of Egypt,’ Houston lent her voice to the DreamWorks biblical retelling, though not in the way most actors do. She sang the title number, a ballad about miracles called ‘When You Believe.’ Two versions are included in the film; Houston sung the latter, the end-credit song, with Mariah Carey.
Apparently wanting to continue her film work from a different angle, Houston ramped up her producing efforts with ‘The Princess Diaries’ (2001). She brought the first (and later the second) of Meg Cabot’s young-adult series to the big screen.
The first movie was a hit, and a second one in 2004 did well too, giving rise to the career of Anne Hathaway and prompting Houston to continue her producing efforts.
Houston’s final acting and producing credit, on a remake of the 1976 music drama ‘Sparkle,’ hits theaters in August.
-- Steven Zeitchik