Small Axe's Naomi Ackie to star as Whitney Houston in new biopic

British actor Naomi Ackie is on the rise, having made strong impressions in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Steve McQueen's acclaimed BBC anthology series, Small Axe. And she's set to hit the big time with her first leading role, portraying pop icon Whitney Houston in biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

The song takes its title from Houston's floor-filling 1987 smash 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)', the perennial club night favourite. Deadline reports that Everything, Everything and The Photograph helmer Stella Meghie will direct the movie, while Sony plans to distribute.

“We spent the better part of the last year in an exhaustive search for an actress who could embody Whitney Houston,” Meghie said in a statement. “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 movie has been greenlit with the blessing of Houston's estate, and the script will come from Darkest Hour's Anthony McCarten. The late singer-songwriter's life was populated with the kind of ups and downs that prove irresistible to filmmakers, with noteworthy highs including the chart-busting cover of 'I Will Always Love You' from 1992's The Bodyguard.

Will Ackie be able to hit those formidable high notes? It's often said that a biopic is made or broken by an actor's ability to sing as the person in question. That said, Freddie Mercury actor Rami Malek was overdubbed in 2018's Bohemian Rhapsody, and he went on to win an Oscar. And the same applied to Marion Cotillard in 2007's La Vie En Rose, for which she won an Oscar portraying French singer Edith Piaf.

No release details have emerged yet, so stay tuned to the blog and Twitter @Cineworld for more information.