Denzel Washington on Working with Whitney Houston on ‘The Preacher’s Wife’: ‘She Wanted to Be Tough, but She Wasn’t’

At one of the heights of his career, following films like “Malcolm X,” “Philadelphia,” and “Devil in a Blue Dress,” Denzel Washington starred in a remake of the 1947 Christmas movie, “The Bishop’s Wife.” Directed by the late great Penny Marshall, the remake was called “The Preacher’s Wife” and centered on a struggling Baptist pastor, played by Courtney B. Vance, and an angel come down to help, but who ends up focusing more on the pastor’s wife. Marshall cast this role to another megawatt talent of the time, Whitney Houston. Discussing his career with Chaz Ebert at the American Black Film Festival in Miami, per People, Denzel Washington remembered the concern he had for Houston while making the film.

“I felt like I always wanted to protect her,” he said. Ebert acknowledged how this was present in the film. She said, “There was a vulnerability that you saw.”

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Surprised this came across in his performance, Washington asked Ebert, “So you really got that?”

Ebert confirmed her view, to which Washington mockingly took credit, as if it was intentional. To laughs, he said, “Well, of course.”

Putting jokes aside, Washington said of Houston, “I always felt like I wanted to protect her. You know? She wanted to be so tough, but she really wasn’t. That’s all.”

Houston died in 2012 following many years of substance abuse issues and at her funeral, Kevin Costner gave a stirring eulogy. He had co-starred with her in “The Bodyguard” and they had developed a close relationship during production, but Costner, while promoting his upcoming film “Horizon: An American Saga,” recently admitted, also per People, that he was a bit surprised to be given this responsibility.

“Whitney was certainly so worthy to talk about, but it’s not my first instinct to go out there, to rush to the mic,” Costner said. “But I got a call from Dionne Warwick [Houston’s cousin] and I could tell in her voice she was broken. I said yes to her when I had been saying no all week. I heard in her voice how tired she was, how many decisions she was probably having to make, who would speak, who wouldn’t speak. She goes, ‘Kevin, can I ask you?’ and I [just] said, ‘Yes.’”

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