One of the music's most naturally gifted 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 – she would enjoy a huge crossover appeal, alongside 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 Houston's career – which would influence a generation of female performers after her – would also be tainted by personal struggles, including a turbulent 15-year marriage to Bobby Brown and a long-history of drug addiction and abuse, which would culminate in the musician being found unconscious in a bathtub in the Beverly Hilton Hotel and later pronounced dead at the age of just 48.
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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, who won an Oscar for the 2000's One Day in September, helmed The Last King of Scotland and underlined his music doc credentials with 2012's critically acclaimed Marley, is working with fellow Oscar-winning producer Simon Chinn, behind both Man on Wire and Searching for Sugar Man. Chinn, together with his Emmy-winning cousin Jonathan Chinn (Fantastic Lies, American High) are producing the doc 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, found and president of Arista Record and currently chief creative officer of Sony Music Entertainment. Davis is universally acknowledged to have helped bring Houston to prominence, having first seen her perform in New York City in 1983. Friends, family and collaborators are also set to tell their side 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," while never-before-seen footage will chart her whole life from her church's gospel choir to her tragic death, alongside exclusive demo recordings, rare performances and audio archive.
“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.
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"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 utilizing its skills and looking after international sales on the Whitney Houston doc, introducing the project to buyers in Cannes (where it will also be touting Kapadia's next doc, Maradona). It has also secured U.K. rights and will be hoping the film emulates Amy's record-breaking success when it releases the film 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 added: "Whitney’s story, brought to screen by Kevin Macdonald and this producing team, will make for a truly compelling theatrical event for audiences worldwide."
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.