Whitney Houston Doc in the Works From Oscar-Winner Kevin Macdonald
The "unvarnished and authentic" project — the first to be officially authorized by the singer's estate since her 2012 death — will be introduced to buyers in Cannes by the banner behind 'Amy's' record-breaking U.K. release.
Whitney Houston is joining the growing ranks of late entertainers to get the documentary treatment, with the British banner behind the acclaimed Oscar-winning Amy set to introduce the film to buyers in Cannes next month.
Academy Award-winning Scottish director Kevin Macdonald — who sources tell The Hollywood Reporter had long been working on a project centered around the singer known to many simply as "The Voice" — will helm the as-yet-untitled "official" film, which was announced Thursday.
Houston, who died in 2012, was known as one of the music industry's most naturally talented and successful artists, with an estimated 200 million records sold worldwide and the only singer to have enjoyed seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits. Proving her crossover appeal, she had an acclaimed starring role in 1992's The Bodyguard, which would win her a Grammy and still remains one of the biggest-selling soundtracks of all time.
But while Houston's career would influence a generation of female performers, the star also had widely known personal struggles, including a turbulent 15-year marriage to Bobby Brown and a long history of drug addiction, which would culminate in her death at age 48 after she was found unconscious in a bathtub in the Beverly Hilton Hotel and later pronounced dead.
The "unvarnished and authentic" story, set to "examine both the highs and lows of her dramatic career," is reportedly the only documentary to have been officially authorized by Houston's estate since her death.
Macdonald won an Oscar in 2000 for One Day in September, directed The Last King of Scotland and underlined his music-doc credentials with 2012's critically acclaimed Marley. He is working on the Houston project with fellow Oscar-winning producer Simon Chinn, behind both Man on Wire and Searching for Sugar Man. Chinn and his Emmy-winning cousin Jonathan Chinn (Fantastic Lies, American High) are producing the film under their Lightbox Media banner, having partnered with multi-Emmy-nominated Lisa Erspamer (Running From Crazy).
Among the figures lined up to be interviewed are Clive Davis, founder and president of Arista Records and currently chief creative officer of Sony Music Entertainment. Davis is universally acknowledged for bringing Houston to prominence after first seeing her perform in New York in 1983. Friends, family and collaborators are also set to tell their sides of the story, helping reveal a woman who was "both blessed and cursed with perhaps the greatest natural ability of any pop star in history." Never-before-seen footage will chart her life from her church's gospel choir to her tragic death, alongside exclusive demo recordings, rare performances and audio archives.
"The story that is never told about Whitney is just how brilliant she was as an artist. By many measures, she had the greatest voice of the last 50 years," said Macdonald, who recently directed the pilot episode of J.J. Abrams' science fiction thriller series 11.22.63. "She changed the way pop music was sung, bringing it back full circle to its blues and gospel roots. She was also completely unique in being a black pop star who sold in countries where black artists don't traditionally sell."
The filmmaker asserted that he wouldn't "shy away from the darker parts of Whitney's life," including her descent into addiction.
"I want audiences to walk out of the cinema and feel positive about Whitney and her music," he added. "I want to reveal a woman that even her most die-hard fans never knew and a woman those new to her life and music will never forget."
Altitude, the British banner that scored a hit with Asif Kapadia's Amy, which last year became the highest-grossing British documentary of all time, is using its skills and looking after international sales on the Whitney Houston film, introducing the project to buyers in Cannes, where the company will also be touting Kapadia's next documentary, Maradona.
It has also secured U.K. rights to the Houston doc and will be hoping the film emulates Amy's record-breaking success when it releases it under its Altitude Film Distribution arm. Amy brought home a haul in excess of $5.5 million at the local box office.
Will Clarke, chairman and co-CEO of Altitude, said: "Whitney's story, brought to screen by Kevin Macdonald and this producing team, will make for a truly compelling theatrical event for audiences worldwide."