By Justin Kroll
Senior Film Reporter
September 20, 2021 3:30pm
EXCLUSIVE: Ashton Sanders has joined the cast of the biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody, the upcoming feature about the late musical icon Whitney Houston. Sanders will play Bobby Brown, and sources also tell Deadline that Black Label Media is coming on board to co-finance the film with Compelling Pictures and Primary Wave Music.
Naomi Ackie is set to play Houston in the Kasi Lemmons-directed film. The screenplay is written by Academy Award nominee Anthony McCarten, and will take audiences on an emotional, energetic journey through Houston’s career and music.
Alongside McCarten’s Muse of Fire Productions, the film is being produced by Pat Houston on behalf of the Houston Estate, Grammy-winning music producer Clive Davis, Larry Mestel on behalf of Primary Wave Music, Denis O’Sullivan and Jeff Kalligheri of Compelling Pictures, and Matt Jackson of Jackson Pictures. Molly Smith, Trent and Thad Luckinbill will produce for Black Label Media, with Black Label’s Rachel Smith and Seth Spector executive producing. Primary Wave Music is a partner of the Houston estate. Stella Meghie will also exec produce.
Houston is the most awarded female music artist of all time and is one of the bestselling recording artists of all time, selling more than 200 million records worldwide. Houston won six Grammys, 16 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards and two Emmys, among other honors. Houston made her acting debut with the romantic thriller film The Bodyguard and recorded six songs for the film’s soundtrack, including “I Will Always Love You.” The song won the Grammy for Record of the Year and became the bestselling physical single by a woman in music history. The soundtrack album won the Grammy for Album of the Year and remains the bestelsling soundtrack album in history. In 2020, Whitney was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and became the first Black artist to have 3 RIAA Diamond Awards.
Sony and TriStar Pictures will release the film in theaters on December 23, 2022.
Best known for his breakout role in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, Sanders will soon reprise his role as RZA in Season 2 of Wu-Tang: An American Saga. Most recently, Sanders appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Judas and the Black Messiah, and he is also set to produce and star in A More Unbending Battle under his 1237 Production banner.
Sanders is represented by Hyperion, and Felker Toczek Suddleson Abramson.
Next on the Black Label slate JD Dillard’s Devotion starring Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors, Derek Kolstad’s Time Agent and Grant Singer’s Reptile starring Benicio Del Toro and Justin Timberlake.