Kevin Costner reveals his promise to Whitney Houston — and his refusal to trim her eulogy

Kevin Costner waving in a white suit, white shirt and dark sunglasses
Kevin Costner was reminiscing about his friendship with Whitney Houston on the “Armchair Expert” podcast.
(Vianney Le Caer / Invision / Associated Press)

At Whitney Houston’s 2012 funeral, which was broadcast live on CNN, Kevin Costner delivered a 17-minute eulogy. But if the network had had its way, his remarks would have run much shorter, the “Yellowstone” actor says.

Costner, who co-starred with Houston in the 1992 romantic thriller “The Bodyguard,” was one of eight speakers at the esteemed singer’s funeral. Initially, he was hesitant to accept the invitation to speak, but at the encouragement of Houston’s aunt, singer Dionne Warwick, he changed his mind.

“Chapter 1,” which premiered Sunday at Cannes, has all the hallmarks of TV. Times staffers debate whether that’s a good or bad thing.

May 20, 2024

With a friend’s help, he told “Armchair Expert” podcast hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, “I tried to compile everything I wanted to do and finally crafted this speech.” Then it was nearly derailed by the network.


“Somebody said, ‘CNN’s here, they wouldn’t mind if your remarks were kept shorter because they’re going to have commercials.’ And I said, ‘They can get over that. They can play the commercial while I’m talking, I don’t care.’ ”

CNN did not reply immediately Wednesday to The Times’ request for comment.

Costner’s refusal had its roots in a protectiveness over Houston that he described adopting early into filming “The Bodyguard.”

Dax Shepard, a tired dad who hates waking up in the middle of the night to pee, was floating an idea.

May 16, 2019

“I realized that the world had a higher idea of who we were, so I basically embraced it. I was her imaginary bodyguard,” he said. “I started to guide her, and I wasn’t trying to usurp my director. But I made a promise to her.”

Costner said he promised Houston — and her mentor Clive Davis — that the movie would be a hit, and that she would shine in it. He was right.

Despite a review from The Times labeling Costner’s character a “joyless mope,” “The Bodyguard” has grossed nearly $122 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo, and Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” received numerous awards, including a record of the year Grammy. The film’s 13-song collection remains the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time.

“That was my promise to her,” Costner said. “She’s always gonna love me in the song. I was always gonna keep my promise to her.”


Dolly Parton reveals the very good reason she had for denying Elvis Presley permission to cover her 1974 hit ‘I Will Always Love You.’

Sept. 15, 2023

Costner and Houston stayed friends until the singer’s death at age 48 from accidental drowning at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

“I eulogized her and I didn’t want to,” the actor-director said Monday. “When she passed away, there was a steady drumbeat to hear.”