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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Naomi Ackie to play Whitney Houston in buzzy new biopic, I Wanna Dance With Sombody

Illustration for article titled Naomi Ackie to play Whitney Houston in buzzy new biopic, I Wanna Dance With Sombody
Photo: Gareth Cattermole (Getty Images), Scott Gries/ImageDirect (Getty Images)

It was back in April we reported that Anthony McCarten, the writer behind snoozy, Oscar-winning biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody and The Theory Of Everything, was hard at work turning the tumultuous life of Whitney Houston into something we could watch with our grandmas. Bad news for us, but good news for the actors angling for its lead role; Rami Malek, Eddie Redmayne, and Gary Oldman, after all, each won Oscars for their work in McCarten’s movies. Well, today, Sony’s TriStar has officially announced your next Oscar winner in The Rise Of Skywalker’s Naomi Ackie, who is confirmed to be playing the R&B superstar in I Wanna Dance With Somebody.


This comes via The Hollywood Reporter, which reports that Ackie was chosen for the role after a worldwide search. “We spent the better part of the last year in an exhaustive search for an actress who could embody Whitney Houston,” said the biopic’s director, Stella Meghie (The Photograph). “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.”

The piece also confirms that, unlike this year’s Bowie biopic, Stardust, the film will be incorporating the singer’s catalog, including her vocals. “Naomi Ackie’s screen test was so powerful, it sent shivers up my spine,” said Clive Davis, the music producer who helped propel Houston to stardom. “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 is a key backer of the project alongside the Whitney Houston estate and McCarten himself. As for Ackie, she can currently be seen in Steve McQueen’s final installment of Small Axe, Education. Prior to the Star Wars sequel, she co-starred in indie hit Lady Macbeth and won a BAFTA Award for her work in the second season of Netflix’s The End of the F***ing World.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.