Whitney Houston doesn’t have to stretch too far to play Rachel Marron, a bitchy diva surrounded by luxury and sycophants who finds her path to the pinnacle of musical and cinematic stardom blocked by a particularly nasty anonymous stalker who has made an increasingly scary series of threats. Enter Kevin Costner as Frank Farmer, an ex-Secret Service agent haunted by his failure to protect Ronald Reagan from John Hinckley’s bullet. Frank signs on as a security consultant and immediately battens down the hatches, much to the displeasure of the uptight Rachel, who’s used to getting things her way.
Rachel’s first lesson in effective crowd control comes when she makes a midnight appearance at an overcrowded nightclub to promote her new single. Faster than you can say ‘Dolce and Gabbana,’ she’s dragged into the crowd and pawed by frantic fans until Frank rescues her by wielding a fire extinguisher as a battering ram. He sweeps Rachel up in her arms, tosses her into a waiting limo, and saves her from further groping.
Sparks of love are sure to fly between Rachel and Frank, and we get the first hint of the attraction when Frank whips out his long samurai sword and waves it in Rachel’s face. How romantic! The movie speeds along from song to song and montage to montage with a false alarm here and a red herring there until we arrive at the Academy Awards ceremony, where Rachel is nominated as Best Actress. Everyone except the chronically paranoid Frank thinks the stalker threat has passed, but will this be the place where the maniac finally makes his move?
The trivia books report that the concept for The Bodyguard bounced around Hollywood for years, with Diana Ross penciled in as Rachel alongside Steve McQueen or Ryan O’Neal. Kevin Costner must have thought he had a star vehicle on his hands when he signed on as a producer and his friend Lawrence Kasdan wrote the part of Frank for him, but the movie belongs to Houston from start to finish. Two of the dozen songs she sings were Oscar nominees, and her go-for-the-gusto rendition of Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ is the most memorable ballad of the 1990s. The soundtrack went on to sell 37 million copies, and with good reason. Houston made hits out of ‘I Have Nothing,’ ‘Run to You,’ ‘I’m Every Woman,’ and others.
After filming wrapped, Houston married Bobby Brown and Costner started making plans for Waterworld. Sic transit gloria mundi, as they say.