Sony Pictures, Alicia Gbur, File, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Viewers got a first glimpse of Whitney Houston's upcoming film Monday when NBC's "Today" show premiered a trailer for the much-awaited release, and a fuller clip debuted on Yahoo! Movies.
A remake of the 1976 original, "Sparkle" stars Houston as the mother of three girls who form a singing group and struggle with fame and drug addiction. The trailer displayed the daughters, including "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks, in performance. Houston is prominent throughout, at one point singing the classic gospel song "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."
She also tells one of her daughters: "I always knew you had the gift. It makes me feel like I did something right. Don't lose it."
Debra Martin Chase, who is a producer of the film, said she had mixed emotions with the trailer's release; the movie is scheduled for release Aug. 17.
"On the one hand, I'm so excited about the movie and we're really happy with how it turned out," she said in a phone interview Monday. "(But) just to have it said yet again that this is Whitney's last performance, it's hard. It's hard."
Houston is listed as the executive producer of the movie, which had already finished filming in Detroit when the superstar died Feb. 11 at 48 in Beverly Hills, Calif., on the eve of the Grammy Awards. An autopsy has shown she accidentally drowned in the bathtub, with heart disease and cocaine use listed as contributing factors.
There is no mention made of drugs in the trailer, and Chase declined to say whether it would be a focal part of the movie as it was in the original, saying she didn't want to talk specifically about the plotlines until closer to the movie's release date.
She also added that the movie was not altered to increase Houston's time in the film in the wake of her death.
"She is an integral, very much an integral part of the movie, but she's not one of the girls," she said. "She plays an important role, she's throughout the movie, but she's not one of the main characters."
Chase echoed other people involved with the movie who praised Houston's professionalism on the set. The movie was seen as a comeback vehicle for the star, whose career had waned over the years due to battles with drugs and alcohol.
"She was healthy, happy, on time every day, hung out on set when she wasn't working because she loved the cast," said Chase, who also declined to talk about the circumstances of Houston's death. "She had fun, her spirit buoyed everybody every day."
Houston had worked to get "Sparkle" to the screen for 12 years. It was her first movie since 1996's "The Preacher's Wife" and 20 years removed from her debut in the blockbuster movie "The Bodyguard," which was rereleased for one night last week.
"Whitney loved this movie very much. This was her idea," Chase said. "The great thing for me as her friend and her producing partner is that this movie will be an essential part of her legacy. ... It's the best performance of her life; she knew it at the time. She looked beautiful on camera and she enjoyed every minute making the movie."
Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the AP's music editor. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com
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