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Sparkle close to Whitney’s heart

Marilyn Moore

Whitney Houston’s final movie role was one that was close to her heart. Houston, who died Saturday, first attempted to executive produce a remake of the 1976 film “Sparkle” more than 10 years ago, but the project was put on hold in 2001 when pop singer and actress Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash. She was set to play the title character.

Losing Aaliyah left the movie in limbo and eventually without a distributor. The production was dormant until TriStar Pictures offered Houston a distribution deal. Houston was ecstatic.

The movie wrapped filming in November. Loosely based on The Supremes, “Sparkle” is set in Detroit during the Motown era and tells story of three sisters and their gritty pursuit of a career in the music business.

The eldest sister (Carmen Ejogo), who is the lead singer of their group, ends up on drugs and eventually dies. Houston portrays their mother Emma and “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks plays the lead character “Sparkle,” who is one of the sisters. Houston said she was heartbroken when Aaliyah died, but praised Sparks for her work in her first major acting role.

“She’s very quick. She’s very good. She knows her cues. She knows how to look. Her voice is like an angel’s,” Houston said when describing Sparks to “Entertainment Tonight.”

Houston accepted the opportunity to take on an acting role in the movie because she could relate to the 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 family 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.’” The film, due out in August, also stars Derek Luke, Mike Epps and Cee Lo. R. Kelly is set to produce music for the soundtrack. Original “Sparkle” cast members Lonette McKee, Irene Cara and Dwan Smith.The original stars Irene Cara and Philip Michael Thomas, and the soundtrack was produced by Curtis Mayfield.

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