In the new Whitney Houston biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody which recently began streaming on Netflix, there’s a scene in which record executive Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci) tells Houston (Naomi Ackie) that her The Bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner suggested that she sing a rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” for the movie.
But is that how it really happened in real life?
Pretty much, yes.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody opted not to cast someone to play Costner, and instead the film only shows us videos of the actual Costner from the actual Bodyguard movie. So Costner’s idea to have Houston sing the song is mostly represented through the verbal exchange between her and Davis. That’s probably not exactly how it happened in real life — it’s more likely that Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston spoke about it face-to-face. But either way, it really was Costner’s idea to have Houston sing “I Will Always Love You.”
Journalist Gerrick Kennedy tells the true story behind the scene in his 2022 book Didn’t We Almost Have It All: In Defense of Whitney Houston.
The True Story Behind Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, and “I Will Always Love You”
“As the music for The Bodyguard was coming together in 1992, Kevin Costner had circled Jimmy Ruffin’s ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ as the song Whitney would sing for the film’s climax. There was little excitement around the prospect of Whitney covering the Motown hit, and the idea was thwarted after Paul Young covered it for Fried Green Tomatoes. Costner, who was a music buff, then suggested ‘I Will Always Love You,'” Kennedy writes.
You can read more in an excerpt from Kennedy’s book here courtesy of The Library of Congress.
That’s not all The Bodyguard actor suggested. He also insisted that Houston sing the first part of the song completely acapella on the recording to show off her true vocal prowess.
At first, record executive Clive Davis (played by Stanley Tucci in I Wanna Dance With Somebody opposite Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston) and producer David Foster didn’t like the idea of having an acapella intro to a potential radio hit, but they agreed to try it anyway.
“When she opened her mouth, I realized that Kevin Costner had come up with one of the greatest ideas in the history of movie music,” Foster writes in his memoir Hitman, adding that Houston’s mother, Cissy, “was standing right beside me in the ballroom, and she realized it, too. At one point, she turned to me and said: ‘You know, you’re witnessing greatness right now.’ She was right.”
So, it turns out that I Wanna Dance With Somebody got the story of “I Will Always Love You,” which was on The Bodyguard soundtrack and went on to be one of Houston’s biggest hits, pretty darn close to how it happened in real life.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody is now streaming on Netflix.
Main Image: Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Photo Credit: Sony