Whitney Houston in Talks to Star in Music-Themed Drama 'Sparkle' (Exclusive)

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Whitney Houston, making her first return to movies since 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife, is in negotiations to star in Sparkle, Sony Pictures remake of the 1976 music-themed drama. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and actor Mike Epps also are set to star.

Mara Brock Akil, who created and executive produces BET's hit comedy The Game, wrote the script while husband Salim Akil, who has helmed every episode of Game and many episodes of the UPN hit Girlfriends, is directing. Debra Martin Chase is producing with TD Jakes, the Akils and Curtis Wallace.

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The original Sparkle was inspired by the story of the Supremes, and centered on the three Williams sisters, who begin singing in their church choir in Harlem in the late 1950s and become a successful girl group. Their sudden rise unravels their personal lives.

Sparks will play the title character, the talented member of the group while Houston will play her not-so encouraging mother. Epps will be Satin, a stand-up comedian who marries one of the sisters and gets her hooked on drugs.

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Irene Cara played Sparkle in the original while Mary Alice, who played the Oracle in the Matrix movies, portrayed Effie. Tony King acted as Satin.

R&B icon Houston famously made her acting debut with 1992’s The Bodyguard, and also appeared in Waiting to Exhale and Preacher’s Wife. The last time she acted for the screen was in 1997’s TV movie Cinderella, with Brandy Norwood.

Houston was involved with the project as a producer when it was originally set up at Warners years ago (in an incarnation that was to star singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash) and will act as an exec producer on the new movie.

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The movie will be the acting debut of Sparks, who won the sixth season of American Idol and had top singles such as “No Air.”

For Epps, Sparkle reunites him with the Akils, for whom he starred in the surprise hit Jumping the Broom. The actor, better known for his comedic turns, is clearly in drama mode and just wrapped the psychological thriller Vipaka with Forest Whitaker.

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