Naomi Ackie is taking on the role of one of music’s greatest icons in the upcoming Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and the first trailer shows an incredible transformation.

We’ve seen some top actors take on some of music’s biggest legends in recent biopics, from Rami Malek as Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland in Judy to Austin Butler’s portrayal of the king of rock ’n’ roll in Elvis.

And there are plenty more on the way, including Ana de Armas as the Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in Blonde and Madonna’s yet-to-be-named production about her own life. 

There’s also the highly anticipated Whitney Houston biopic, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, starring Naomi Ackie (The End Of The F**king World, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker) in the lead role.  

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Directed by Kasi Lemmons (Harriet) from a script by Bohemian Rhapsody screenwriter Anthony McCarten, the new authorised biopic is being produced by music icon and executive Clive Davis, who first discovered Houston.

In an interview with People, Lemmons said that Ackie had done a “phenomenal” job of portraying Houston’s spirit and artistry.

“She completely inhabits the character of Whitney. She put in a year of rigorous preparation so that her transformation on screen displays effortless virtuosity and is utterly believable,” she explained.

“Audiences will get to experience the greatest voice of her generation, singing her most iconic hits, both in the studio and in concert. They’ll see how she created that work, to better understand and appreciate her artistic process and singular creative genius. Her fans will love reliving the music while getting an intimate look at the woman behind The Voice. We’ll all be reminded how lucky we were to have Whitney with us for the time we did.”

Naomi Ackie will play Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

Ackie also said that the biopic showcases “parts of her life that we know about but through the scope of her own internal world”.

“Fans can expect to see her life like we see our own. Ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments, all of it mixing together to make up a life,” she explained.

Taking on the role of someone like Houston is no mean feat – but now that Sony has just released the first trailer for I Wanna Dance With Somebody, it’s clear to see that Ackie will make waves with her portrayal of the vocal powerhouse.

“My dream? Sing what I want to sing, be how I want to be,” Ackie’s Houston says in the trailer, which is soundtracked by I Wanna Dance With Somebody, the song that inspired the film’s title. “Reach as big an audience as I can.”

At one point in the trailer, Houston is told that her music “isn’t Black enough”. “Look, I don’t know how to sing Black, and I don’t know how to sing white either,” Ackie’s Houston responds. “I know how to sing.”

What is the Whitney Houston biopic about?

I Wanna Dance With Somebody will follow the life and times of Houston, who is one of the bestselling recording artists of all time. Described as a “no-holds-barred portrait of the complex and multifaceted woman behind The Voice,” the biographical drama chronicles the story of Houston from her beginnings as a New Jersey choir girl to one of the most iconic singers of all time.

Houston was, of course, best known for hits including Saving All My Love For You and I Will Always Love You, and her acting debut in the hit 90s film The Bodyguard. But despite her huge talent, successes (six Grammys) and charm, Houston also struggled with addiction and toxic personal relationships.

Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem during the pregame show at Super Bowl XXV in 1991

Who is in the cast of the Whitney Houston biopic?

I Wanna Dance With Somebody also stars the beloved actor Stanley Tucci as Clive Davis and Ashton Sanders as Bobby Brown.

Clarke Peters, meanwhile, will be playing John Houston, Whitney’s father, and Tamara Tunie will be portraying Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother.

Who is behind the Whitney Houston biopic?

Anthony McCarten, who also wrote Bohemian Rhapsody, has penned the screenplay. And Pat Houston (the star’s sister-in-law and manager) will produce the movie on behalf of the Houston estate, along with music producer Clive Davis. With the backing of Houston’s estate, the movie will use the singer’s catalogue, including her vocals.

The Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody will chronicle the life and times of the iconic singer

Commenting on Ackie’s portrayal of Houston in the audition process, Davis said: “Naomi Ackie’s screen test was so powerful it sent shivers up my spine. Although Whitney’s incomparable vocals are used for all the songs, Naomi’s extraordinary acting range enables her to masterfully capture Whitney’s unique charm, star power and, of course, her personal struggles. Naomi is the real deal and I can’t imagine a better choice for this iconic role.”

Davis added: “All Whitney fans have an appetite for perfection when it comes to Whitney and her legacy. To transform someone into a matchless icon is virtually impossible. But 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.”

When is I Wanna Dance With Somebody out?

I Wanna Dance With Somebody is scheduled to be released in cinemas on 21 December.

Images: Getty; Sony Pictures

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