In celebration of Whitney Houston's last movie, we take a look at key moments and tidbits you should know about Sparkle. The film stars Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter and Whitney Houston.
Producer Debra Martin Chase and executive producer Whitney Houston worked for over 12 years to remake Sparkle. The lead role was originally given to R&B singer Aaliyah, but a week before meeting with Houston she tragically died in an airplane accident in August 2001. The project would be put on hold for the next 10 years.
"This was [Aaliyah’s] movie," said Houston during a set visit interview. "When we brought it to her, she was so enthusiastic about it and she wanted...to do it so badly. She was our Sparkle. Unfortunately… it just didn’t go that way. I put it down. I said, ‘My Sparkle has gone to a better place,’ then we just left it alone.”
In 2007, Jordin Sparks won the sixth season of American Idol and by 2011 she was given the opportunity to take on the role of Sparkle and Houston called her "just really, just perfect."
Derek Luke, a modern day...
Derek Luke plays Stix, an aspiring musical impresario who feels a deep connection to Sparkle's talent.
"…A modern day Sidney Poitier in this movie." – Salim Akil on Luke.
"This is his first time as a real romantic leading man, and it's just there, the elegance, the pride, and the way he carries himself, it's just exciting." – Debra Martin Chase, producer.
Changing the Era to Detroit 1968
Director Salim Akil made the decision to shift the era from 1950s Harlem in the original film to Detroit 1968, when the music of Motown was dominant.
"The girls represented the future and the aspirational aspect of America at that time. You had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Beatles, music was changing, political views were changing and I felt it was important to set it in that time." –Salim Akil
The story of Emma
Whitney Houston's character, Emma, is a former singer who's familiar with the ins and outs of showbusiness. After a rough life in the industry, she is now comfortably settled with her daughters and is raising them in a religious atmosphere where gospel singing is the extent of the family's cultural life and the allure of modern music is frowned upon.
Carmen Ejogo as "Sister"
British actress Carmen Ejogo brought the necessary smoothness and candor the part of "Sister" required.
"She has big ambitions. She's a rebel. She uses her sexuality and she knows that she's very magnetic as a personality and she has a lot of charisma, but I think Sister's tale is ultimately a cautionary one. She thinks she deserves a bigger and more glamorous life than Detroit can offer. She's an opportunist and she takes advantage of situations, in the end, it turns out to be her downfall." –Carmen Ejogo
Mike Epps channels the dark side
Comedian and actor Mike Epps portrays one of the characters from the original film, Satin. A pivotal role, Satin is shown to be a famous comedian of the era whose success with white audiences comes at the expense of stereotypes about African-Americans.
"He meets these sisters and takes a liking to the older sister, but takes her life in a different direction. He's kind of a sad guy. He's a comedian, but he has a dark side to him." –Mike Epps
Music: The Old and New
Although new music was written for this reimagined Sparkle, attention was carefully paid to the classic Curtis Mayfield songs written for the original, "Something He Can Feel," "Jump," and "Hooked on Your Love." Executive music consultant R. Kelly wrote three original songs, including the final song "One Wing."
Bonus: The Importance of Gospel
Gospel was integral to the story, with the church's influence an essential part of the Anderson family's dynamic. It led to one of the movie's unforgettable moments, when Whitney Houston performs "His Eye on the Sparrow."
"In a larger context, you can say all the girls are the sparrow, but certainly Sparkle was the sparrow. Whitney chose the perfect song and the way she performed it was amazing. It sort of hits you behind the heart." –Salim Akil
Bonus: Whitney Houston's Last Performance
Tragically, this would be Houston's last performance on screen. Director Salim Akil admits how difficult it is to talk about the late superstar but wants audiences to know she gave it her all.
"What she's giving you in this film is what she's given consistently since we've known her as an artist and that is quality, subtlety, knowing how to play the quiet moments and knowing how to restrain herself in the bigger moments." –Salim Akil