How Whitney Houston’s Role In ‘The Bodyguard’ Catapulted Her Career

Whitney Houston’s career was full of amazing highs. From hit songs and albums and her world tours and movie roles, she was eventually labeled as the most awarded female singers of all time, with over 400 titles. Many of this was made possible after she appeared in her first film, The Bodyguard.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston 1993 | Chris Grieve/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

The film went on to be labeled as the blockbuster movie of the year and became a go-to for couple’s date nights. The success of the film and its soundtrack put the singer in a different league that would keep her at the top of the charts as one of the highest-grossing artists for years after its release.

Whitney Houston makes history with first two studio albums

Whitney Houston burst onto the scene as the beloved protegee of respected record executive, Clive Davis. She was first introduced by Davis with a performance on The Merve Griffin Show where she performed the song Home from the classic film, The Wiz. Davis gushed over Houston’s vocal talent and beauty and told Griffin that she was a superstar on the rise. His prediction proved to be right when Houston’s first two studio albums topped the charts and she dominated the musical award seasons.

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Davis took his time to perfect Houston’s voice and image as he knew she was destined for greatness. In fact, they spent a full two years working on her first studio album before its release. Their hard work paid off, with her self-titled first album’s debut in 1985. Whitney Houston spent 14 weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 and was certified 13x platinum, reaching Diamond status. The album produced four US top 5 singles, including three Billboard Hot 100 No.1 singles with “Saving All My Love For You,” “How Will I Know,” and, “The Greatest Love of All.” “Saving All My Love For You” won the 1986 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a female artist.

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Her follow up album, Whitney, was released in 1987 and exceeded expectations of many critics. Whitney debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, making her the first female artist to have a female artist, and only the fifth album by a solo artist, to achieve such. The album’s first four singles – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “So Emotional,” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” and, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” – all shot to number one. With four number one hits from one album, Houston became the first female artist in history to do so. With both albums combined, she had an unprecedented seven consecutive number-one singles, surpassing the records set before her by the Beatles and the Bee Gees. 

Whitney Houston scores first film role in ‘The Bodyguard’

Houston released a third album in 1990, I’m Your Baby Tonight, with a more urban, New Jack Swing flavor. The album produced six singles and was eventually certified quadruple platinum. It was considered a more moderate success for the singer. While promoting the album, it was announced that Houston would be starring in her first movie role.

Houston confirmed that she would be starring alongside actor, Kevin Costner, in the upcoming film, The Bodyguard. Houston would play an AcademyAward-winning actress who enlists the help of a bodyguard, played by Costner, to protect her from a stalker and death threats. The two would fall in love through their time working together as bodyguard and client. Though fans were anxious for the movie’s release, it was later revealed by Costner that Houston was not easily sold on the role. She declined multiple times as she was fearful that audiences would not take to her and she felt that the role was too close to her real-life career. At Houston’s funeral in 2012, Costner spoke about witnessing Houston’s constant doubt of her abilities, as reported by The Today Show.

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Houston eventually obliged and began filming after her third world tour ended. Costner admitted that he prolonged the start of production on the film while he waited for Houston to finish her tour duties. Thankfully, she agreed to work on the film. The screenplay was over 20 years in the making. The wait was worth it when The Bodyguard was released in November 1992 and did huge numbers at the box office. 

‘The Bodyguard’ makes Whitney Houston an international icon

The Bodyguard opened in theaters on November 25, 1992. It ranked third opening weekend and spent 10 weeks in the Top 10 film list. The film would ultimately gross $121 million in the US and $410 million worldwide. Critics had mixed reviews on the film but fans loved it. The movie did great and was praised for showing an interracial love story, but what created the most success was the accompanying soundtrack. 

The Bodyguard
The Bodyguard Promotional Shot | Fotos International/Getty Images

Released in December 1992, The Bodyguard album featured original songs by Houston and songs performed in the film. Fans rushed to record stores to get their copies and it became the first album verified by the Nielsen SoundScan computerized sales monitoring system to sell more than a million units within a one-week period. The soundtrack later won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It was eventually certified 18× Platinum by the RIAA and became the 15th best-selling album in the United States.

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The staple single from the album, “I Will Always Love You,” received huge airplay across pop, R&B, adult contemporary and soul radio markets. It spent 14 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts. To promote the album, Houston embarked on an international tour. The Bodyguard World Tour lasted over a year and produced 120 shows. Critics praised her performances at almost every stop.  The tour earned over $30 million and helped put Houston on Forbe Magazine’s Richest Entertainer’s list. According to her official website, her performance in South Africa marked the first concert for a performer in the country since President Nelson Mandela’s release from prison as a celebration of a united country, and was broadcast live on HBO under Over 200,000 attendees were present at the live concert, Whitney: The Concert For A New South Africa.

Houston would admit in a 2010 interview with Oprah Winfrey that the success from The Bodyguard was too much for her to handle.