Last month, we shared the trailer for the Whitney documentary, a film that hopes to give fans a balanced perspective of the icon Whitney Houston. When you watch the trailer, you can’t help but get misty-eyed. You realize that the late singer was such an incomparable talent, so when she passed away on Feb. 11, 2012 due to an accidental drowning, you not only mourn the loss of a legend but you wonder what else happened in her life that caused her to spiral downward at certain points.
At the Cannes Film Festival last night, Whitney made its world premiere, and according to Deadline, the documentary reveals that the beloved singer was abused as a child by her cousin Dee-Dee Warwick, the late sister of another icon Dionne Warwick.
Kevin Macdonald, the director of Whitney, sat down with 70 people who knew the starlet. Only 30 made the cut, but they include mother Cissy Houston, ex-husband Bobby Brown, Bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner, and her brothers. Macdonald hoped to paint an intimate picture of the one we call “the voice,” and in doing so, this “bombshell” of abuse was dropped right before the end of filming.
In an exclusive interview with Deadline, Macdonald was asked how this revelation came to pass and why he chose to present it in the film.
“I first began to suspect that there might be some kind of abuse involved before anyone had actually told me. I just had a sense, having sat watching interviews about [Whitney], watching footage of her. I had a feeling that there was something wrong with her,” he said. “There was something preventing her, in some way, from expressing her real self. She felt uncomfortable in her own skin in almost every interview there was with her. And I thought that was a very strange thing, and it kind of reminded me of people I’d seen who had suffered from abuse, just in their body language and their sense of holding something back. That was just an intuition, and then somebody mentioned it off-camera to me. They wouldn’t talk about it on camera, but they said Whitney had said to her that something had happened.”
Although Macdonald does not use the words “sexual abuse,” it is implied that is what he means. When Gary Houston, one of Whitney’s brothers, talked about being abused by a woman in the family, it spiraled into him talking about his late sister’s own abuse. But Gary wasn’t the only one who confirmed the story. Two others did as well.
“And then I interviewed Pat Houston and Gary Houston, who’s Whitney’s brother. He told me that he was abused by a woman in the family, and Pat Houston told me that, yes, Whitney had said to her, ‘This is what happened.’ So at that stage, I’d had the confirmation that something had happened, but I didn’t know who it was. And then, on the next interview, Gary did tell me who it was,” he said. “This was at the very end of filming, two weeks before we locked the cut. Then I [interviewed] Mary Jones, who was Whitney’s longtime assistant [throughout] the last 10 years of her life, and who knew her better probably better in that period than anybody else. And she told me Whitney’s point of view on this, and what Whitney had told her in detail, and how important she felt it was for understanding Whitney, but how scared everyone was to talk about it. So, yeah, the film changed radically in the last weeks of editing it, which I guess, as a detective, is the result you want.”
Describing himself as a detective wasn’t a hat that he necessarily wanted to wear at the beginning of filming. He took on this role when he noticed many contradictions and holes in stories meant to protect the late singer, something that Macdonald flat-out called “lies.”
“So I would say, there were a lot of lies. A lot of lies, and that just, of course, makes you more intrigued. And you get people contradicting each other, and you think, ‘Why? What are they hiding? What’s going on?’ Now, how can you ever understand anybody fully? But I felt that by the end of the kind of investigation, if I can call it that, I did sort of feel like we’d uncovered a couple of key things that unlocked really important elements of her, and that made you sympathize with her a bit more…” he said.
And the alleged abuse is definitely one of them. To all those who love and miss “the voice,” I will definitely be checking out the film when it’s released in theaters on July 6. Will you?
Check out the trailer below.
Renese spends her early mornings writing, her days securing insurance for TV shows, and her in-betweens blogging about the silliness and seriousness of life on her blog. Follow Renese on Twitter: @reneseford