Kevin Costner was among the list of high-profile figures who spoke at Whitney Houston's funeral service, held Saturday at New Hope Baptist Church, in Newark, New Jersey.
In a speech that was both somber and poignant, the 57-year-old actor recalled anecdotes from shooting 1992's "The Bodyguard." The film was the pop star's first movie role and also helped establish Houston as one of the world's most preeminent singers, featuring a Houston-led soundtrack that sold more than 42 million copies worldwide and a career-defining performance of "I Will Always Love You."
"At the height of her fame as a singer I asked her to be my costar in a movie called 'The Bodyguard.' I thought she was the perfect choice. But the red flags came out immediately. Maybe I should think this over a bit. I was reminded that this would be her first acting role. We could also think about another singer, was a suggestion. Maybe somebody white... Nobody said it out loud, but it was a fair question. It was. There would be a lot riding on this. Maybe a more experienced actress would be the way to go. It was clear that I had really had to think about this," Costner said.
"I told everyone that I had taken notice that Whitney was black," he added, to some laughter.
He continued: "It was the burden that made her great, and the part that caused her to stumble in end. Whitney, if you could hear me now, I would tell you, you weren't just good enough, you were great. You sang the whole damn song without a band. You made the picture what it was. A lot of leading men could have played my part, a lot of guys could have filled that role. But you Whitney, I truly believe, were the only one who could have played Rachel Marron at that time. You weren't just pretty. You were as beautiful as a woman could be. And people just didn't like you, Whitney. They loved you."
Coster also shared that he and Houston had both been raised in the Baptist Church.
"[Whitney] and I had a lot in common. I know many at this moment are thinking, really? 'She's a girl, you're a boy. You're white, she's black. We heard you like to sing, but our sister could really sing,'" Costner said, adding that one of Houston's favorite stories of Costner involved him growing up as a young boy in church.
Photos from the scene at Saturday's funeral: