Exclusive: Whitney Houston’s last role unveiled in first ‘Sparkle’ trailer

Billy Johnson, Jr.
Movie Talk
April 2, 2012

Whitney Houston always portrayed the idolized, beautiful centerpiece in her movies "The Bodyguard," "Waiting To Exhale," "Cinderella" and "The Preacher's Wife."

But the legendary pop singer who was found dead in her hotel room in February will show so much more depth in her last role in the TriStar Pictures film "Sparkle," a remake of the 1976 film about an early '60s girl group.  The film also stars former "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks in the title role, "The Voice" judge Cee-Lo Green, and comedian Mike Epps.

In "Sparkle," Houston plays Emma, a middle-aged mother of three girls struggling to break into the music business. Emma knows their plight as she failed to reach her goals as a singer.  Sparks plays Emma's daughter Sparkle, a gifted singer trying to balance her relationship with her sisters and her new love with their manager, Stix (Derek Luke).

[Related: Whitney Houston's mother addresses daughter's death]

When the girls sneak in late after a night of gigging, Emma, wearing a lime green robe and hair curlers, confronts them on their rebellion.  Houston's comedic timing is good as she makes wisecracks, warning her girls that dancing provocatively is a precursor to unplanned pregnancies.  And while Houston's acting appears to be her best, it's her singing that will arguably be most moving for her fans.

The "I Will Always Love You" singer whose admitted drug abuse stripped away some of the power of her enviable voice, sounds soulful when performing the famous gospel hymn "His Eye On The Sparrow" in the trailer.

In the clip, an emotional Emma stands in the center aisle of an empty church, singing the song of hope as scenes of one daughter's abusive relationship and another's uncertainty with her boyfriend play in the background.

During the filming of "Sparkle," Houston discussed her connection to her character. "I have an 18-year-old daughter," she told "Access Hollywood." "I felt love that a woman has for her children in the late 60s, trying to keep a father together. Single mother. Hi. I just felt that passion for it. When it was suggested that I play the mother I said OK, 'I think I can do this. I've had a lot of practice.'"

[Related: Houston's daughter lands role in Tyler Perry show]

Houston originally planned to produce the film more than 10-years-ago. Late R&B singer Aaliyah was cast to star before she was killed in a plane crash. Afterwards, the project lay dormant.

Sparks, who raved about how fun and kind Houston was to her during the filming, said Houston was very proud of the movie. "It was definitely her baby," Sparks told Entertainment Weekly. "You could see the pride on her face when we wrapped. She was so excited that this was finally happening."

The trailer closes with Emma giving advice to Sparkle that feels eerie in Houston's passing. "I always knew you had the gift. It makes me feel like I've done something right. Don't lose it," Emma said to her daughter.  It feels like a conversation Houston described having with her own mother, years earlier, at the peak of one of her most troubled times.

"Sparkle" opens on August 17.

[Related: Hip-Hop Media Training blog on Yahoo! Music]

Watch a live chat with "Sparkle" stars Jordin Sparks and Mike Epps starting at 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT.

Streaming live video by Ustream

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