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How Whitney Houston’s Iconic Moments Were Recreated For A New Biopic

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It’s a daunting feat to recreate an icon’s famous moments, but that’s exactly what the cast and crew of Whitney Houston’s latest biopic I want to dance with someone– in theaters now – took. As many biopics before that, the production required extensive research into the star’s life. It was therefore imperative that production designer Gerald Sullivan and his team leave no available resources untapped to bring the film to fruition – from analyzing video footage of Houston’s performances to working closely with friends and family, including including her sister-in-law Pat Houston and her record producer Clive Davis.

While Houston’s story is rooted in New Jersey, the majority of the production was actually shot in and around Boston, with some scenes filmed in Los Angeles. Music videos that have been recreated include “How Will I Know”, “It Ain’t Right”, and “Run to You”. Among the live performances that have been recreated are his performance at the now defunct Sweetwater’s Manhattan nightclub, where Houston first met Davis; several stops during his Bodyguard world tour; The Concert for a New South Africa; and its performance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009 (to name but a few!).

The recreation of the set for the music video for “How Will I Know”.

Emily Aragones

“For each of these performances, we thoroughly researched the layout and size of the venue, then gathered all the video footage we could find,” Sullivan said. Beautiful house. “Sometimes we would go so far as to obtain the architectural plans of the venue and/or the scenographies of its touring shows.”

production design for whitney houston oprah performance

Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston performing a recreation of Houston’s live performance on The Merv Griffin Show in 1983.

Seacia Paul

Houston’s homes – her childhood home and her own New Jersey mansion – were crucial places to showcase. “We searched and found many photos of Whiney’s childhood home, both inside and out,” Sullivan says. “We scouted many houses in suburban Boston until we could find a near perfect match. We modified the exterior and interior to match the original.

The New Jersey Mansion, where Houston married Bobby Brown in 1992, was a little harder to approach because it’s “pretty unique with its curvilinear floor plan,” Sullivan says. “As we were relegated to filming in the Boston area, we immediately knew we wouldn’t find a home to match, so we were looking for the same sense of opulence. We found a contemporary neoclassical mansion with the bulky feel that we needed. It worked perfectly for the scenes we wanted to capture during this time in Whitney’s life.

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the house that plays whitney mansion

Another central setting in the film is Davis’ office. The recording industry executive had three offices during his time with Houston. Sullivan and the production team opted to build his first office, which he originally signed Houston into, which featured dark wood wall paneling and mid-century modern furniture. “It has a very late 70s feel that we loved,” Sullivan says.

office of clive davis in whitney houston biopic

One of Clive Davis’ former offices was recreated for the film.

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Emily Aragones

But perfecting the set meant going beyond the simple room: “Clive had an incredible collection of stereo equipment, photographs of many of his proteges, and an ever-growing collection of gold and platinum records,” says the designate. “We’ve recreated all of those, adding more for each period that we see the office, approaching each period in an authentic way.

clive davis office

A seating area in Clive Davis’ office includes a mushroom lamp and a chrome and glass coffee table.

Emily Aragones

Other notable details of the film’s set design include Houston’s actual travel beauty kit which, according to Sullivan, is “the size of a kitchen table” and made of “black leather with stainless steel detailing. on its own set of wheels”. Inside was everything she and her team had used on tour. His travel chair is the only other personal item the team had access to that appeared in production.

In the background of the Houston studio recording sessions, you can also spot a teddy bear. “It was a replica of the one she brought to each of her recording sessions,” Sullivan explains. “Another classic Whitney detail was seeing Fruity Pebbles cereal in her first apartment – ​​research tells us these were her favorites and always nearby.”

studio for the recording of Whitney Houston

On the studio set, you can spot two teddy bears, one on an armchair and the other on a side table.

Emily Aragones

In Los Angeles, filming took place at the Beverly Hilton, where Houston spent her final evening. “We didn’t shoot in the actual room, Suite 434, because it had been altered and redecorated years ago,” Sullivan explains. Instead, we recreated it on stage exactly as it was when Whitney stayed there.

Whether you’re a longtime fan of Whitney Houston or just curious to see how her iconic moments and the places she frequented were recreated for this biopic, it’s definitely worth watching. Catch it in cinemas, pre-order it through Prime Video, or wait for the movie to hit Netflix.


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