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“Like all those who knew and loved her, we are shocked and saddened and the world has lost an incomparable talent. Right now our thoughts are with her daughter, her family and her friends,” spokesman Steve Elzer said on behalf of the studio.
Houston had completed filming on the project, a remake of the 1976 movie Sparkle, the showbiz saga of a trio of singers, which, in turn, was loosely based on the career of The Supremes. The film could have marked the beginning of a feature film comeback for Houston, who shone briefly but brightly in the ’90s with starring roles in The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife.
“This would have been a big, big comeback, she is so brilliant in it,” Howard Rosenman, who is an executive producer on the new film, said of Houston’s performance. Rosenman, who produced the original movie and has a story credit on the remake, had seen a rough cut of the film Friday night and said, “I was just raving about her performance, she was so great in it. I’m just in shock.”
Jordin Sparks, American Idol season six winner, is playing the title role in the movie about three sisters, who start singing in a church choir, become a successful girl group and then must contend with a series of personal problems. Houston’s role is that of the sister’s not-so-encouraging mother. Mike Epps also is appearing in the film as a stand-up comedian who marries one of the sisters and gets her hooked on drugs.
Mara Brock Akil, who created and executive produces BET’s hit comedy The Game, wrote the script, and her husband Salim Akil, who has helmed every episode of Game and many episodes of the UPN hit Girlfriends, is directing.
Billboard reported Saturday that Houston’s final recordings will be heard in the film. She sings the gospel classic “Eyes on the Sparrow” and duets with Sparks on a new R. Kelly song, “Celebrate,” over the end credits.
Houston made her screen debut in 1992’s The Bodygard, starring opposite Kevin Costner. The Warners release, in which she plays a pop star, grossed $411 million worldwide and included her famous rendition of the Dolly Parton-written “I Will Always Love You.”
She followed that overnight film success with a role in the ensemble drama Waiting to Exhale, based on Terry McMillan‘s novel, in 1995, in which she played a TV producer in love with a married man. Grossing $81.4 million worldwide, the movie was considered a success with particular appeal to African-American women.
In 1996, she played the title role in The Preacher’s Wife, opposite Denzel Washington, an inspirational drama that was a remake of the 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife. The film took in $48 million domestically.
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