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Whitney Houston left behind a remarkable musical legacy, but she was also a talented actress.
She and Kevin Costner starred in The Bodyguard, a romantic thriller that became a hit and shot her to superstar status. But before the film cemented itself into pop culture history, Diana Ross and another famous actor were attached to the project more than a decade before its release.
‘The Bodyguard’ was pitched in the ‘70s
Years before Houston turned “I Will Always Love You” into a scene-stealing musical moment in The Bodyguard, the film’s concept was cooked up by Lawrence Kasdan and filmmaker John Boorman.
Originally written in 1975 with Steve McQueen in mind, the film went through a rewrite and an updated treatment in 1978. It was submitted by Boorman to an executive at Warner Bros. Said executive was impressed.
By 1978, a rough draft for the script had been developed and sent to actor Ryan O’Neal. The team behind the film wanted him to play the lead, and he had someone special in mind as his co-star — someone he was dating.
Ryan O’Neal tried to get Diana Ross on board
O’Neal and Ross engaged in a brief love affair sometime after she split with her husband. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli’s book, Diana Ross: A Biography, they both were coy about the seriousness of their relationship, but in the early stages of it (around spring ’79), O’Neal showed Ross the script for The Bodyguard.
Taraborelli wrote that Ross was turned off by the movie’s nude scene and refused to do it. O’Neal tried to sway her with gifts and affection, but she was still hesitant. It took her months to render a final decision and she said no in August 1979. Per Taraborelli, Ross wasn’t happy with the title, the singing, the violence, or nudity.
But O’Neal dished in his own autobiography, Both of Us: My Life with Farrah, and was blunt about the situation. “Diana was difficult and opinionated,” he wrote.
“All she did was complain about the script. We went through three screenplays. It would have been one thing if none of the scripts were good, but they were excellent. I eventually got fed up with her imperiousness and we never did do the picture,” O’Neal revealed.
He called her a diva and said her behavior about the movie ultimately soured their relationship. The film went on ice until 1992.
Whitney Houston was hesitant about role
History now reveals that Houston initially was not interested in playing the part of Rachel Marron either. Nudity didn’t wind up being part of the role for the updated version, but Houston had other reasons for turning it down. She had concerns about the character and how fans would react to seeing her acting skills in a feature film.
Kevin Costner spent months trying to persuade her to accept the role, and it finally worked. Houston explained to Rolling Stone, “I told him about my fears. I said: ‘I’m afraid. I don’t want to go out there and fall.’ And he said: ‘I promise you I will not let you fall. I will help you.’ And he did.”
After its release, The Bodyguard went on to score big at the box office, raking in $400 million globally. Houston’s vocals sent the soundtrack up the charts and helped cement her icon status. Musically, the film earned an abundance of honors including Grammys and Billboard awards.
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