“Sparkle” Was Whitney Houston’s ‘Last Gift to Us’
(NEW YORK) — To remake Sparkle, a film considered a cult classic, is a tough feat. And the pressure is not lost on the cast of Sparkle, due in theaters Friday.
British actress Carmen Ejogo, who plays Sister, refused to see the original before diving into her role as a sexy singer looking for a way out of 1960s Detroit.
We tried “to make our own fresh classic,” she told ABC News Radio Tuesday at the New York City premiere. “And I feel like we’ve done that. I really feel like we’ve made a modern classic…let’s allow that cult classic to exist.”
Still, for many moviegoers, it will be their very first time seeing the story of three sisters who try to make it in the music industry, but get derailed by drugs, heartbreak and their own insecurities.
Jordin Sparks portrays the title character, Sparkle, who has a gift of songwriting despite her mother’s discouragement, and ultimately finds her voice without her family as a crutch. It’s Sparks’ film debut, and she didn’t want to disappoint her cast mates.
“I memorized the script backwards and forwards. I knew my lines. I knew everybody else’s lines. I knew their exits and entrances and that’s really what helped me as soon as I got there,” Sparks told ABC News Radio. “I’ve never done this before so…I was kind of just flying by the seat of my pants.”
Sparks plays a naive wide-eyed teenager who eventually gets her heart broken, which only strengthens her own resolve to make it as a star.
“Because she was so ‘green’ she didn’t even know when to ask for extra takes,” recalled her co-star Omari Hardwick, lovingly. “She basically just used her natural charm and natural ability.”
But even as a new actress she wasn’t the one scared of those tough kissing scenes. It was her leading man, Derek Luke, who plays an ambitious manager, Stix, who discovers the girls, who got butterflies on set.
“I’m the one that was pretty nervous,” Luke admitted. “I’m the one that didn’t want to do the scenes.”
Still, it was prayer, led by the late Whitney Houston, who also produced the film, that calmed any nerves the actors might have felt.
“I definitely requested a couple of prayers be led,” Hardwick said. “It speaks to the tonality of how she dealt with everybody. She was the momma hen, and the auntie, and the sister, and the friend.”
“She treated us like her children,” Tika Sumpter added.
And in Houston’s last film, one she tried for 10 years to create, the message is to simply follow your dreams — a mantra the singing diva lived to her last day.
“If she was here it’d be an even bigger party,” Ejogo told ABC News Radio at the film’s premiere. “This was her last gift to all of us.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio