Tragic singer Whitney Houston and actor-director Kevin Costner were more than just co-stars in the hit movie The Bodyguard. You see, despite outward appearances, the pair had more in common than many people realize. In fact, their bond was so strong that Costner proclaimed his late friend to be his “one true love.” What’s more, his regrets about her passing are heartbreaking.
Anyone who listened to mainstream radio in 1992 will know the song “I Will Always Love You.” Country singer Dolly Parton originally wrote and recorded the track in 1973. Her version twice hit the number one spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, first in June 1974, then with a re-worked version in October 1982. Houston, however, took the song to even greater heights.
Indeed, Whitney Houston’s recording of “I Will Always Love You” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart when it was released towards the end of 1992. It’s a position the song held for a total of 14 weeks, which, at the time, made it the longest number one run in chart history. And, although others have since matched or surpassed that feat, it remains among the biggest-selling singles in history.
The song was on the soundtrack to the movie The Bodyguard. The film marked Houston’s first foray into acting. Her co-star in the blockbuster was Kevin Costner. However, as well as working closely together on the movie as leading man and leading lady, the pair struck up a friendship when the cameras stopped rolling.
Houston, despite her already-phenomenal success as a recording artist, was incredibly nervous about her acting debut. But the experienced Costner became both a confidante and muse, offering a proverbial hand to hold throughout the filming process. What’s more, during the shoot, the pair realized they had far more in common than either of them perhaps expected.
Even so, Costner himself only realized the strength of his bond with Houston after the singer’s passing in 2012. And while the actor lamented that his co-star was his “one true love,” his recognition of those feelings came with a profound regret. And in a statement Costner released regarding his friend’s death, he admitted it would haunt him forever.
Costner played the titular role in 1992’s The Bodyguard. Having once served as a Secret Service agent to the President, his character, Frank Farmer, was then employed to protect a famed R&B singer and actress. Rachel Marron, Houston’s character, was the target of a stalker — a crazed fan who threatened to kill her.
As Marron travels from concert to concert, Farmer is never far from her side. However, the bodyguard struggles to come to terms with the fact he hadn’t been there to protect Ronald Reagan from his would-be assassin. Perhaps to compensate for his guilt over the President being shot, Farmer adopts strict security regimes to protect his celebrity clients.
Farmer’s methods rub Marron and her entourage up the wrong way. They come to regard the bodyguard’s presence as an impingement on the singer’s freedom. Moreover, Farmer has little time for clients who don’t respect his job. Tensions between Marron and her bodyguard run high right from the start of their professional relationship.
Nevertheless, the pair find themselves in a situation where they can’t avoid each other. Marron confides in Farmer that, due to her status, she comes across as far more headstrong than she really is. Then, as the singer warms to her minder, she introduces him to her inner circle, including her sister and son.
Marron eventually learns to put her trust in Farmer and they begin an affair. However, it is fated to be short-lived and ends when the bodyguard’s duties for the singer concludes and he departs for his next job. And, according to Costner’s memories of his relationship with Houston, they shared similarities with the two characters they played.
Indeed, as an R&B singer, the role of Rachel Marron could have been explicitly written for Houston. However, the script was originally intended for Motown diva Diana Ross as long ago as the mid-’70s. And when it made its way to its eventual leading lady nearly 20 years later, she was more than a little hesitant about taking it on.
As Houston revealed to Rolling Stone magazine in 1993, “I thought, ‘I’ll just get this little part somewhere, and I’ll work my way up. And all of a sudden I get this script, and I said: ‘I don’t know. This is kind of… big.’ So I was scared.” A surprising admission given that Houston was already a Grammy-winning recording artist.
Reading a eulogy at Houston’s funeral in February 2012, Costner recalled “[Houston] was nervous and scared that she wasn’t good enough for the role. But I told her I would be with her every step of the way.” And by all appearances, the pair struck up quite a friendship while shooting The Bodyguard.
Addressing Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina, Costner said, “Your mother and I had a lot in common. I know many at this moment are thinking, ‘Really?’” which prompted laughs from the audience. “‘She’s a girl, you’re a boy. You’re white, she’s black. But our sister could really sing.’ So what am I talking about? ‘Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, they don’t have anything in common at all.’ Well, you’d be wrong about that.”
Remarkably, Houston and Costner’s childhoods shared a lot of similarities. “We both grew up in a Baptist church,” Costner recalled. “My grandmother led the choir and played the piano.” Indeed, as well as having her own pop music career, Houston’s mother, Cissy, once led the New Hope Baptist Church choir. It was the very place that Houston started singing herself. And so she was particularly interested by Costner’s memories.
As Costner recalled, “The church was the centre of our social life and [Houston] and I would laugh, knowing it was also the place where we could really get into big trouble, especially when you were allowed to sit with your friends and not your parents in the big church.” The behavior of both of these young churchgoers, then, presumably wasn’t always angelic.
“I remember more than once being pulled from the pew for whispering and passing notes,“ Costner continued. “I don’t believe my feet ever hit the floor as my father hauled me outside in front of everyone. I believed even the preacher prayed for me.” For one reason or another, the actor’s tales of youthful misdemeanors resonated with Houston.
Costner further recalled, “It was easy for us to laugh. The church was what we knew. It was our private bond. I can see her in my own mind running around here as a skinny little girl knowing everyone, everyone’s business, knowing every inch of this place. I can also see her in trouble, too.” He pictured how Houston might have charmed her way out of conflicts with her mom.
Indeed, despite her enormous success, Houston was plagued with personal problems later in life. The singer’s drug addiction has been well documented during a turbulent marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown. But through it all, she and her The Bodyguard co-star remained close friends. The actor was even asked for his help during Houston’s troubling times.
“There are some people that really love [Houston],” Costner admitted to CNN journalist Anderson Cooper in April 2012. “And a couple times during the last seven, eight years, [they] asked me, would I write her a letter? She would always be close to me, she would always be somebody I appreciated.” Of course he obliged, but his efforts were in vain.
On February 11, 2012 Houston had been readying herself for a party prior to the Grammy awards ceremony. When her assistant entered her Beverly Hills hotel room at around 3.30 that afternoon, the singer was lying unconscious, in the tub where she had been bathing. Paramedics pronounced her dead 20 minutes later. A coroner’s report later stated she drowned, though drugs and heart disease contributed to the accident.
The news of his friend’s death shook Costner. And though the pair remained friends for 20 years after The Bodyguard brought them together, the depth of their connection only became apparent to the actor in hindsight. Indeed, in a statement released in the wake of Houston’s passing, Costner said, “She was my one true love.”
“I still have ‘I Will Always Love You’ as my ringtone and I count it as a badge of honour every time I get mocked for it,” Costner admitted. However, the actor revealed a heartbreaking regret over Houston’s death. And it’s one that he says will burden him for the rest of his life.
“I let her down,” Costner believes. “I should have been there and I wasn’t and now for the rest of my life I will have to live with that pain. I saved her then, I should have saved her now.” The admission was a reference to The Bodyguard in which his character saves Houston’s Rachel Marron from a stalker.
Costner told morning show Good Morning America in May 2012, “She was a very important person to me and the world has connected us in a way that we’ll never not be. I didn’t really get a full grasp of that until the lead-up to the funeral where people somehow felt that it was important that I say something.”
Houston’s funeral — affectionately dubbed a “homecoming” by those close to her — was held on February 18, 2012. The ceremony took place at the very church in Newark, New Jersey where the singer’s talents first became apparent. However, Costner’s revelations about his co-star demonstrated how much Houston differed from Rachel Marron and might surprise many.
You see, Houston was a global superstar, that much she does share with her character in the movie. It’s also true that they were both award-winning singers and actors. But whereas Marron occasionally comes across as conceited, there was a vulnerability to the real-life star that many people didn’t get to see.
But Costner saw it. And he traced Houston’s insecurities back to singing in church under her mom’s tutelage. The actor told the congregation, “As I’m sure of Whitney’s place in musical history. I’m also sure of how she felt about her mother. Was she good enough? Could I have done better?” Houston was anxious about being accepted.
Costner believed that Houston was given to self-doubt. “Did they really like me or were they just being polite because they’re scared of you Cissy?” he said. Moreover, despite her phenomenal success as a pop singer, Houston had many reservations about playing the role of Rachel Marron. And there was the added concern of a black actress co-starring alongside a white leading man.
However, Costner had no such doubts. You see, he felt Houston was perfect for the role. In fact, he felt so strongly that she should play the part of Marron that he was willing to postpone shooting when it became apparent the filming schedule would clash with the singer’s tour. The actor knew who his leading lady should be despite her misgivings.
As Costner recalled in his eulogy at Houston’s funeral, “[She] was nervous and scared that she wasn’t good enough for the role. But I told her I would be with her every step of the way.” Indeed, the actor had grown close enough to Houston to see her insecurities and help guide her through them.
“I wanted to tell her that the fame was rigged,” Costner further explained. “That I didn’t care how the test went, that she could fall down and start speaking in tongues. That somehow it was a kind of acting method.” However, the actor also pointed to Houston’s insecurities being her ultimate downfall.
As Costner recalled, “The Whitney I knew, despite her worldwide fame, always worried. Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?” The part that made her great, [but] the part that made her great was also the part that made her stumble.” The actor also downplayed his own role in the popularity of The Bodyguard.
“A lot of men could have played [Frank Farmer],” Costner admitted. “But you, Whitney, were the only person who could have played Rachel Marron.” Indeed, he credited his co-star as being a big part of the movie’s extraordinary success. The actor said, “People didn’t just like you Whitney. They loved you.”
Ultimately, however, the movie took a heavy toll on Houston. After all, not only was she spending numerous hours on set during a six-month shooting schedule, but nights were spent in recording studios perfecting the soundtrack. The stress proved too much for the singer and actress, who suffered a miscarriage during filming.
As Houston described to culture magazine Ebony in January 1993, “During that pregnancy, I was under such pressure and such stress… I was giving just so much to this film role, and I went right from the concert tour to filming. My body was not ready to carry a child. I think of it as God’s way of saying, ‘This is not right this time; let’s try it another time.’”
But whatever factors contributed to Houston’s untimely death aged just 48, Costner regrets not being the person who intervened. He said in her eulogy, “I was your pretend bodyguard once. And now you’re gone too soon. What you did was the rarest of achievements. You set the bar so high. That your colleagues don’t even sing that little country song [“I Will Always Love You”]. What’s the point?”
Although critics found The Bodyguard to be less than inspiring, fans loved it. The movie earned more than $400 million at the global box office, making it the second most popular film of 1992 behind Disney’s Aladdin. Meanwhile its soundtrack remains the best selling of all time, having accumulated more than 45 million sales worldwide to date.
Indeed, the movie is still a topic of conversation for Costner nearly 30 years on. In June 2019 he revealed a secret about Rachel Marron, who he cradles in his arms on its iconic poster. “That wasn’t even Whitney actually,” the actor confessed to entertainment website People. “She had gone home and that was her double, and her head was buried into my shoulder.” And despite efforts to superimpose Houston’s face, the studio eventually stuck with the image. “Which was appropriate anyway,” the actor said. “She was frightened.”