Whitney Houston Was Offered a Role In ‘The Five Heartbeats’ and Regretted Not Taking It

by Jeremy Spirogis
Whitney Houston

Almost 30 years in the past, Robert Townsend’s dream of making a basic movie based mostly on his favourite teams of the 1960s got here to fruition. With Motown supergroup The Temptations as his mannequin, Townsend spent years buying the movie earlier than touchdown a cope with FOX. The film ultimately grew to become a cult basic and iconic for its music and portrayal of Black brotherhood.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston 1994 | John Atashian/Getty Images

A brand new documentary chronicling Townsend’s journey to getting the movie to the massive display is at present accessible for hire or buy on numerous streaming platforms. Footage included reveals nearly each Black entertainer in showbusiness auditioning for a task. Stars like Neicy Nash, RHOA star Cynthia Bailey, and even now-disgraced singer R. Kelly’s auditions have been proven. But one of many stars Townson coveted most was singer Whitney Houston. 

Robert Townsend remembers providing the function of Baby Doll to Whitney Houston for ‘The Five Heartbeats’

After the movie was greenlit by FOX, Townsend obtained the ball rolling on casting. He went after Whitney for 3 causes: he knew she wished to get into appearing, the musical part of the movie, and since Houston’s title can be a giant draw on the field workplace.

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Whitney and her supervisor – her father John Houston – agreed to satisfy with Townsend to debate the function at John’s workplace in New York.

“She was the darling of the music industry at the time and she also wanted to act so I gave them my best pitch,” Townsend defined within the documentary. 

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He supplied her the function of Baby Doll, the girlfriend of the lead singer of The Five Heartbeats. Houston would get to sing two numbers within the music – one can be a gospel music that Townsend was sure would earn Whitney each a Grammy and an Oscar nomination. 

John promised they’d check out the script and get again to Townsend with a solution. Townsend spoke extra about his hopes to have Whitney within the movie in a 2018 interview with Billboard Magazine, emphasizing that he pushed the music as the most important motive why Whitney can be a very good match.

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Ultimately, Whitney’s staff declined the provide as a result of they felt it was “too small.” But, after viewing the movie, Whitney circled again to Townsend and expressed her remorse and the way the movie was one among her favourite motion pictures.

How ‘The Five Heartbeats’ failed on the field workplace grew to become a basic

The Five Heartbeats did phenomenal through the take a look at screenings with audiences throughout America – even fairing higher than Home Alone. FOX was so excited from viewers reactions that they spared no expense when it got here to the promotional and publicity tour forward of the movie’s theatrical launch.

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The solid carried out small concert events for promotion, participated in celeb basketball video games in giant markets, and the solid was transported by personal jet. Townsend was thrilled and assured that the movie can be a field workplace smash, however advertising and marketing proved to discourage audiences from viewing the movie.

According to the documentary, New Jack City was launched previous to The Five Heartbeats and there have been a number of shootings that have been mentioned to be sparked by the movie, which scared the studios into adjusting their advertising and marketing for future movie launched. The trailer for The Five Heartbeats omitted the center of the storyline and was considered as “soft” by viewers. Reviews of the movie by revered movie critics occasion pointed to negligent advertising and marketing on FOX’s behalf.

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When the movie opened in theaters, the numbers have been so unhealthy that FOX started taking it out of theaters to economize. The solid was despatched on one remaining promotional press tour to try to get their core demographic to flock to theaters however it was too late. 

Months later, the movie was launched on VHS, and thru phrase of mouth, buzz surrounding the movie generated and VHS gross sales shot by means of the roof. The movie has run on tv for years since its launch, on tv networks together with VH1, BET, and TV One.  Though the solid and Townsend have been dissatisfied by the field workplace numbers, they’re most pleased with the movie’s cultural affect.

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