Only two weeks after Whitney Houston’s passing, rumors are already circulating about a tell-all book to be penned by her ex-husband Bobby Brown and a biopic being put together by longtime mentor Clive Davis.
In fact, the U.K.’s Daily Mail thinks that Rihanna is the favorite to play Houston, with Jennifer Hudson, Vivica Fox, and Jordin Sparks also apparently on the short list.
All of those ideas remain simply rumors—and pretty flimsy ones as well; the names largely seem less like genuine casting news than an arbitrary collection of black actresses.
So let’s assume that Rihanna, whose first film role will come this May in the board-game-turned-big-screen-action-flick Battleship, is not exactly a lock for the part, despite the fact that the two women share a pop-star background and complicated relationships with guys named Brown.
However, Houston’s biography is so rich that it seems inevitable that it will end up on the big screen one of these days. Assuming that, who should take on the title role in The Whitney Houston Story?
There are a handful of approaches potential casting directors could take. There’s the Notorious route, wherein a search is conducted to find a newcomer who can match the physical and vocal inflections of the late star. That worked out well for the movie, which tracked the life and career of Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, though didn’t really do much for Jamal Woolard, the novice actor who played him.
And while discovery casting would be great, Houston’s story seems too well-known to be put in the hands of a newcomer. That’s why it’s likely that the Ray approach would make more sense for a Houston biopic. Getting an actor who already has musical experience helps (Jamie Foxx’s pipes had a lot to do with him taking on Ray Charles), but it’s not entirely necessary (Angela Bassett didn’t sing when she was cast as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It—a role Houston actually turned down because she was pregnant—but that didn’t stop her from winning a Golden Globe for her work).
So who could step into Houston’s big shoes? Is Rihanna best suited for it? She seems too young and inexperienced as an actress to handle such heavy and high-profile work. Hudson could probably do it, as could Fox (though at 47, it may be tough for her to play Houston in her twentysomething prime).
Sparks seems like a left-field choice, and physically perhaps not the best match. But what about somebody like Taraji P. Henson, who has constantly churned out underrated work over the past decade or so?
Who would you cast as Whitney Houston? Sound off in the comments.
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