The Bodyguard was one of the most popular films of the early ‘90s. Directed by Mick Jackson and starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, the film told the story of a former US Secret Service agent who becomes a bodyguard for a famous singer.
The film had a fascinating past, originally being written way back in the ‘70s, and it took a lot of effort to bring it to life. Here’s the story of how it was made, with some fun behind-the-scenes facts and profiles of the main cast members, then and now.
The Idea Began With Lawrence Kasdan
Lawrence Kasdan is the man we have to thank for giving us The Bodyguard. Born in 1949 in Florida, Kasdan was the son of “thwarted writers” and says that he owes a lot to his parents for his love of writing and his passion for creating stories.
Kasdan worked various odd jobs as a young man and attended the University of Michigan, winning the college’s prestigious Hopwood Award writing contest four times in total. After that, he got his master’s and started work on screenplays, hoping to make it big in the movie business.
Kasdan Wrote the Bodyguard in the ‘70s
It was way back in the 1970s that Kasdan originally came up with the idea for The Bodyguard. He was working as a copywriter at an agency in Detroit at the time. Kasdan described the work as “hellacious” and used any free time he got in the evenings to work on screenplays.
The Bodyguard was the sixth screenplay Kasdan finished. He took inspiration from Yojimbo, starring Steve McQueen when writing the movie. He was interested in characters who would be willing to put their lives on their line to earn money and save the lives of people they don’t necessarily care about.
Kasdan Knew He Was Onto Something
Kasdan had enjoyed writing all of his screenplays, but he felt something special about The Bodyguard. It seemed different, and he felt like it really could turn into a successful movie if someone was willing to make it someday.
Kasdan explained in an interview, “It wasn’t until I wrote ‘The Bodyguard’ and sensed it was different that I realized I was writing an increased level of density.” He was right to have a good feeling about the script, as it helped him get his first agent, but this didn’t lead to any kind of immediate success.
The Script Was Rejected 67 Times
Unfortunately, it took Kasdan’s agents two whole years to find anyone willing to buy the script. According to Kasdan, 67 people passed on it in total. Eventually, it was sold to Warnes Bros. studio executive and producer John Calley for $20,000.
Calley gave John Boorman the job of directing the picture, and Kasdan traveled with Boorman to Ireland, where they started to piece together the initial plans for the movie. Kasdan revealed that Boorman changed a lot of the script, basically turning it into a whole new film.
Two Very Different Leads
When we think of The Bodyguard these days, we picture Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in those iconic leading roles. However, in the original ‘70s version of the film that was planned to be made, the lead characters were incarnated by two very different people.
Ryan O’Neal was placed in the part of the Bodyguard, with Diana Ross acting as the leading lady. Kasdan had initially hoped for Steve McQueen in the bodyguard role, but O’Neal seemed to fit the bill, and everything was moving along smoothly until it all came crashing down.
Diana Ross Pulled Out
Diana Ross decided to pull out of the project, sending it into “development hell.” Without the leading lady, who needed to be someone special, it was clear that the film simply couldn’t be a success, so everyone backed out and carried on with their lives.
Several years passed, and Lawrence Kasdan moved on to other projects. He wrote a script called Continental Divide, which was sold to Universal for $150,000, and Kasdan made his directorial debut with Body Heat, which was well-received. At that point, the idea of making The Bodyguard came up again.
Kasdan Was Offered the Directing Role
After seeing how successful Kasdan had been with Body Heat, executives wanted him to make The Bodyguard. But by that point, Kasdan was pretty tired of the whole situation. He’d written and re-written the script several times and was trying to move on with other work.
He was also getting ready to direct The Big Chill and was also writing alongside George Lucas and Steven Spielberg at the time for Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies, so he passed. But later on, while working with Kevin Costner on Silverado, The Bodyguard came back into Kasdan’s life all over again.
Costner Really Wanted to Make the Film
Kevin Costner read the script of The Bodyguard while working with Kasdan and decided right away that he wanted to make it and star in it. He used some of his own star power to make the film happen, and it was thanks to his determination that The Bodyguard finally entered production.
Kasdan came back on board with the idea and wanted to see the film get made but didn’t want to be in the director’s chair. So, he and Costner agreed to produce it together, with Mick Jackson in the director’s role. Next, they needed a leading lady.
Costner Wanted Whitney Houston
It was Kevin Costner who wanted Whitney Houston to star alongside him in the movie. At the time, she was one of the world’s biggest music stars, with a series of chart-topping singles and multi-platinum albums. She seemed like the ideal fit for the part.
Costner later admitted that he was initially drawn to Houston because of how attractive she was, but he later became convinced that she was the only person who was truly right for the part of Rachel. Kasdan agreed, saying that the part had always been written with a true superstar in mind.
But Whitney Didn’t Want the Job
Costner wanted Whitney Houston, but he had a big challenge ahead of him in trying to convince her to appear in the movie. Houston was a massive pop star and wanted to get into acting, but she hoped to start with small roles and work her way up.
The idea of starring as a lead in a big-budget movie with Kevin Costner seemed quite scary to Houston. She was worried that she might not be good enough and scared of all the criticisms and negative scrutiny that was sure to come her way. However, Costner gave her a call and eventually convinced her to sign up for the project.
Houston and Costner Helped Each Other
To convince Whitney that she could do the job, Costner promised that he wouldn’t let her make a fool of herself on screen. He also demanded that she not take any acting lessons, as he wanted to preserve her authentic pop star vibe and style.
Houston agreed, and Costner taught her how to act while the film was being made. In return, she gave Costner some singing lessons, so both of the stars helped each other learn new skills, developing a firm friendship along the way.
Some People Had an Issue with Whitney’s Race
Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when the film was being made, there was still a lot of prejudice in some parts of society about the idea of interracial relationships. Some people were worried about how the film would be seen, as it involved a white man and a black woman falling for one another.
Costner once quipped, “Everybody alerted me to the fact that she was black, which I knew.” He, along with Houston and Kasdan, all stated that the race of the characters wasn’t important at all. The film was simply about two people falling in love, and Costner adamantly refused to include any kind of special pandering or “explanation” about the relationship.
Many Love Scenes Were Cut
Costner and Kasdan didn’t want to minimize the on-screen relationship between the film’s leading characters. However, several love scenes were still cut from the final film, and fans have noted that there aren’t many displays of affection apart from the famous kiss scene and one or two other romantic moments.
Part of this is because Houston refused to appear naked in any scene. However, many love scenes were still filmed but ended up being cut to tighten up the film’s plot and ensure that it didn’t run for too long. In the end, it still runs for over two hours.
Several Accidents Happened During Filming
With Whitney on board, production finally commenced on The Bodyguard, but several more challenges and dramatic moments lay ahead for the film. During filming, quite a few accidents happened, leading to injuries and even one death.
During Frank and Rachel’s farewell kiss scene, the camera had been set up on a rail that followed Houston as she ran towards Costner and then filmed around them in a circle. On the first take, the camera’s operator was thrown from the moving platform and hurt himself. That take got used in the final cut.
One Member of the Crew Died
Another on-set accident had a much more tragic end. On January 3 of 1992, a grip truck driver named William Vitagliano was accidentally crushed between a pair of cranes that had collided with one another, pinning William in the center.
Emergency services arrived on the scene, managing to extract William and send him to the hospital. However, he was pronounced dead later that day. Warner Bros. carried out a full investigation and sued the equipment makers that had caused the accident.
An Iconic Soundtrack
It’s fair to say that a big part of The Bodyguard’s success is down to its soundtrack. The soundtrack is still the best-selling of all time, with more than 18 million copies sold in the United States and millions more sold elsewhere around the globe.
Houston sang six of the songs on the soundtrack and worked as executive producer for the film’s music. It was thanks to her that the sounds and songs behind the action worked so well. She was well-rewarded for her efforts, winning several Grammy awards and two Oscar nominations.
Whitney Nearly Didn’t Sing Her Most Famous Song
The most famous song from the film has to be Whitney’s cover of I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton. The song has become an integral part of pop culture, with countless aspiring singers trying to hit those same notes with the power and skill of Houston herself. But it nearly didn’t appear in the movie.
Originally, Houston had planned to sing “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.” However, while the film was being made, Paul Young covered that song for Fried Green Tomatoes and got into the charts. Another song was needed, and Maureen Crowe, the music supervisor, suggested I Will Always Love you.
The Poster Was a Lie
Many people can remember the famous poster for The Bodyguard, which showed Kevin Costner carrying Whitney Houston out of a club in a rainy alley. It’s an iconic image, but there’s a secret behind it: that wasn’t actually Whitney!
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Costner revealed that the poster actually shows Whitney’s double. Whitney had already left the set on the day the poster was shot, so the double was used. This is why we can’t quite see much of her face in the image, and Costner specifically loved the “evocative” nature of that particular shot.
Critics Mostly Hated the Film
When the film was released, the critics were not kind. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has just a 34% approval rating, with most critics having negative views and calling the film “cheesy” and “melodramatic.” A lot of reviewers also felt that there was a lack of chemistry between the film’s leads.
The film was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor, and Worst Actress. It didn’t win any other major awards, but “Run to You” and “I Have Nothing” were both nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar, and the soundtrack won multiple awards.
But Audiences Adored It
Critics may have mostly disliked The Bodyguard, but the general cinema-going public loved it. The film opened in around 1,700 theaters and grossed $16.6 million in its first weekend. It spent ten weeks in the top 10, grossing $121.9 million in the US and over $410 million worldwide.
The Bodyguard set records in the UK and Australia, among other countries, and was the second highest-grossing film of 1992 worldwide. It was a huge commercial success. Even though Lawrence Kasdan was unhappy with the criticisms and aspects of the movie, he was thankful to director Mick Jackson for creating such a popular movie.
The Musical Version
In 2012, The Bodyguard became a stage musical. It was written by Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and featured songs from Whitney Houston, including I Will Always Love You and I Wanna Dance with Somebody. The show premiered in the West End of London in December 2012.
The show was announced just a few days after Whitney Houston’s death in February 2012. It took several years of development and altered the original story in a few ways, focusing more on the character of Rachel Marron rather than the Bodyguard himself and bringing the setting up to the present day.
“More Enjoyable Than the Movie”
The West End musical of The Bodyguard opened to very positive reviews from the critics. One reviewer, Charles Spencer of The Daily Telegraph, even said that it was better than the film. There were still negative opinions, but many people loved the show’s direction, set design, and pacing.
The show was nominated for multiple Laurence Olivier Awards but didn’t win any. And after a few years in the West End, the show was taken on tour across the UK, Ireland, and Monaco. It opened in Utrecht in the first non-English version, with other versions in Cologne, Seoul, Toronto, and the US.
Parodies in Popular Culture
When films become as successful and widely adored as The Bodyguard, they often start to be parodied or joked about in other media. The Bodyguard has had its own share of parodies and references over the years, as well.
The Simpsons famously parodied the film in the Mayor to the Mob episode, in which Homer becomes a bodyguard and carries Mark Hamill, just like how Costner carries Houston in the movie. 30 Rock and The Venture Bros also parodied the show, with movies like Bulletproof and The Hitman’s Bodyguard making comedic references to it as well.
A Sequel Was Planned
Often, when a film turns out to be a big commercial success, talks are held about the possibility of making a sequel. Those same talks happened with The Bodyguard, and Kevin Costner actually had some big plans in place for the second installment of the franchise.
Costner wanted Princess Diana to appear in the starring role in the second movie. He was a friend of Diana’s, so he called her up and made an offer. She agreed and received the first draft of the script the day before she tragically died. After her death, Costner gave up on the plans for the film, and the whole idea was scrapped.
A Remake Is on the Way
The Bodyguard sequel might not have been made, but the film will soon get a reboot. Hollywood has been remaking and rebooting many classic movies in recent years, and the time apparently seemed right for a new version of The Bodyguard.
The remake was announced in September of 2021, and not too much is known about it so far. We know that Matthew Lopez, a Tony award-winning playwright, is in charge of writing the screenplay and hopes to have a Latina actress in the Houston role.
Lopez Has Some Interesting Ideas
In the original version of The Bodyguard, the character of Rachel Marron is already an established, successful star. Matthew Lopez has plans for a different angle with his reimagining of the film, saying that it will instead focus on a young performer who has only just become famous overnight.
Lopez said, “It’s about how her life has changed because she is an overnight sensation. In the 21st century, that means she’s in immediate need of protection. It was important to me to use this opportunity to get Latin faces up on that screen and to get their stories told in a big way.”
None of the Original Cast Are Involved Yet
So far, no original cast members have confirmed any kind of involvement with the new version of The Bodyguard. However, Lawrence Kasdan, the writer, and producer of 1992 original, has signed on as a producer and will help to oversee the project.
Little else is known about the reboot. Fans have speculated that an LGBTQ+ romance may somehow be involved in the plot, but this hasn’t been confirmed, and hopes are high that the movie may release in 2022 but could come later, depending on how fast casting and production goes.
Kevin Costner Then
Kevin Costner was born in 1955 in California. He started off his acting career with a starring role in Sizzle Beach, USA, an independent film, obtaining supporting roles in a few other movies and then hitting the big time with lead roles in The Untouchables No Way Out.
In 1990, Costner had the biggest success of his career with Dances with Wolves, a film he won two Oscars. He then appeared in JFK and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991 and was one of the biggest stars around when he joined the cast of The Bodyguard.
Kevin Costner Now
After The Bodyguard, Costner was involved in more high-profile films of the ‘90s, like Waterworld, the most expensive movie ever made, and For Love of the Game. Since the turn of the millennium, he has appeared in movies like Dragonfly, Mr. Brooks, Man of Steel, and Molly’s Game.
He notably won a Primetime Emmy for the show Hatfields & McCoys and currently appears in Yellowstone. He’s also expanded his career in various ways, such as opening his own restaurant, investing in business ventures, and writing his own country music songs.
Whitney Houston Then
Born in New Jersey in 1963, Whitney Houston started singing when she was only a child and became a background vocalist during her teenage years. She also became a model as a teen, becoming one of the first black women to feature on the cover of Seventeen magazine.
Houston then signed a record deal at 19 and had two number one studio albums right away with Whitney Houston and Whitney. Her third album, I’m Your Baby Tonight, was another major hit and The Bodyguard proved that she could act as well.
Whitney Houston Now
The Bodyguard was another success story in Whitney’s amazing career. She won a Grammy for I Will Always Love You, which she wrote for the film’s soundtrack, and sang and appeared in other movies, like Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife.
Houston continued to enjoy musical success with My Love Is Your Love in 1998, but personal problems, like drug use and a difficult marriage, slowly took their toll on her life and career. Tragically, she died an accidental death in 2012 but is still remembered as one of the best singers of all time.
Tomas Arana Then
Tomas Arana was born in California in 1955. He made his earliest on-screen appearance in the 1978 movie Blood Feud, an Italian horror starring Sophia Loren. He went on to make other small appearances in Italian movies like The Skin.
In 1988, Arana got the part of Lazarus in The Last Temptation of Christ, acting under the direction of Martin Scorsese. He then got roles in other big movies like The Hunt for Red October and Shadows and Fog, directed by Woody Allen, leading up to his role as Greg Portman in The Bodyguard.
Tomas Arana Now
After The Bodyguard, Tomas Arana continued to appear in a range of movies all around the world. He took on a great variety of parts, sometimes having small roles in big blockbusters like Gladiator and Pearl Harbor, while other times getting bigger roles in smaller, independent movies.
Arana has appeared in the likes of The Roommate, Limitless, The Dark Knight Rises, Romeo & Juliet, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Don’t Stop Me Now. On TV, he’s been seen in ER, Law & Order, 24, CSI, and Lie To Me. He was recently seen in The New Pope on HBO.
Mike Starr Then
Born in 1950 in New York, Mike Starr didn’t get into acting until his late ‘20s. He made his first appearance on screen in a 1978 episode of Hawaii Five-O, later appearing in guest roles in other TV shows of the ‘80s, such as Spenser: For Hire, Crime Story, The Tracey Ullman Show, The Equalizer, and Wiseguy.
He quickly became a prolific character actor in movies, often appearing either as a figure of authority like a guard or policeman or a criminal like a burglar or a thief. He appeared in movies like Cat’s Eye; The Natural, Violets Are Blue, Uncle Buck, and Last Exit to Brooklyn and Goodfellas in 1990.
Mike Starr Now
After The Bodyguard, Mike Starr’s career continued to go from strength to strength. He had a really prolific period in the ‘90s where he appeared in one film after another, including some big pictures like Ed Wood, Dumb and Dumber, James and the Giant Peach, and Cabin Boy.
Starr hasn’t been as prolific in more recent times but has still appeared in plenty of movies and shows. He had a recurring role in Chicago Fire in 2013 and made guest appearances in shows like Ray Donovan, Shameless, and Mr. Mercedes.
Gary Kemp Then
Gary Kemp played the part of Sy Spector in The Bodyguard. He was born in 1959 in London, England. He started acting at an early age, playing the lead in the 1972 children’s movie, Hide and Seek before later moving into music.
With interest in prog rock and glam rock, Gary eventually decided to form his own band and give music a try. This led to the creation of Spandau Ballet, a successful New Wave pop band that would go on to sell millions of albums across the world.
Gary Kemp Now
Kemp’s appearance in The Bodyguard triggered a series of additional roles in other movies and shows. He appeared in the likes of The Larry Sanders Show, Killing Zoe, Dog Eat Dog, and Casualty. He still makes casual on-screen appearances from time to time.
Gary Kemp has also written several documentaries and started his own podcast, Rockonteurs, enjoying continued success in his musical projects. He was part of the big Spandau Ballet reunion in 2009 and had also been touring with Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets in recent years.
Bill Cobbs Then
Bill Cobbs played the part of Bill Devaney in The Bodyguard. He was born in 1934 in Cleveland, Ohio, and he originally served in the US Air Force as a radar technician, later working at IBM and selling cars at a lot in his hometown of Cleveland.
In 1970, when he was 36, Cobb decided to move to NYC and become an actor, supporting himself with odd jobs like driving a cab and repairing office equipment. He started off small but gradually built up his resume with an appearance on TV shows like Baby I’m Back, The Equalizer, Sesame Street, Spenser: For high, and LA Law.
Bill Cobbs Now
After The Bodyguard, Cobbs continued to act in both movies and TV shows, with varying levels of success. On TV, he got guest roles in shows like The Sopranos, I’ll Fly away, NYPD Blue, ER, The Practice, The Others, and Six Feet Under.
In movies, he’s been seen in Night at the Museum, The Arcadian, The Muppets, Oz the Great and Powerful, and Beyond the Law. He currently appears in a recurring role in Dino Dana, and he won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2020 for his performance in this show.
Michele Lamar Richards Then
Michele Lamar Richards played the part of Nicki Marron in The Bodyguard. She was born in November of 1954 in Pennsylvania, and she broke into the acting world in the 1980s with an appearance on the TV show Simon & Simon.
Michele continued to make sporadic appearances on TV shows throughout the ‘80s, including guest roles on Hill Street Blues and Columbo. she also had a recurring role as Dr. Lois Allen in Alien Nation from 1989 to 1990, as well as a recurring role in The Bold and the Beautiful as Valerie Cooper.
Michele Lamar Richards Now
The Bodyguard was the biggest success of Michele’s career, and she didn’t appear in anything else quite as successful as that in the years that followed. However, she continued to have small parts in a range of TV shows and movies. In the 90s, she appeared in Murder She Wrote, Dream On, Cosmic slop, and Time Trax.
Michele Lamar Richards also had a guest role in an episode of Friends and appeared in Diagnosis: Murder. She appeared in multiple episodes of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction and also had a part in The Division in the early 2000s but has mostly stopped acting since then and works in other fields these days.
Ralph Waite Then
Ralph Waite played the part of Herb Farmer in The Bodyguard. He was born in 1928 in New York, but it wasn’t until he was much older that he got into acting. He originally served in the US Marine Corps from 1946 to 1948 and then finished his education at Bucknell University and Yale.
Waite worked as a minister and religious editor before moving into acting. He made his Broadway debut in 1963 and later appeared in movies like Cool Hand Luke and The Stone Killer. He also had a lead role as John Walton Sr. in The Waltons.
Ralph Waite Now
After The Bodyguard, Ralph Waite continued to appear in a range of movies and shows. He was in Cliffhanger in 1993 and had a voice acting role in Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco. He also made a notable appearance in Timequest.
Waite also had many TV roles, including a recurring role on NCIS and guest appearances in shows like Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, Cold Case, and Bones. He passed away in 2014 at the age of 85, survived by his wife and three children.
A Lasting Legacy
Built on the back of a great idea and solid script from Lawrence Kasdan, The Bodyguard may not have been a critical hit, but it was still an enormous success that is beloved to this day, drawing in new fans all the time with its super soundtrack and engaging action.
It spawned a successful musical, countless pop culture parodies and references, endless soundtrack sales, and an upcoming remake, too. And the craziest part of the whole story is that it so nearly didn’t get made. Luckily, Lawrence Kasdan kept on pushing his script and gave the world an unforgettable film.