Inside Kevin Costner's Relationship With Whitney Houston

At a glance, Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner may have seemed unlikely friends, but after starring in the 1992 film, "The Bodyguard," they formed a special bond. Their time together made them so much more than co-stars, and while they may not have had the opportunity to spend as much time with each other as they may have liked, it is clear that meeting Houston had a profound impact on the "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" actor's life. "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 honor every time I get mocked for it," he said in a statement in 2012 (via The Mirror) following the news of her death.

"He truly cared about her," Dionne Warwick told Fox News in 2023. From undeniable onscreen chemistry to a touching eulogy for the friend and superstar, these are the details of Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston's relationship.

Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston were co-stars in a film

Kevin Costner and Whiney Houston co-starred in the 1992 film, "The Bodyguard." Costner played the role of Frank Farmer, a bodyguard to the famous singer Rachel Marron, played by Houston. Costner was already a veteran actor at this point, but the film marked Houston's first acting role (though she would later appear in several other movies). 

When it came time to cast the perfect person to play Marron, Costner had only one person in mind. "He said if you don't do this movie, I don't want to do this movie," Houston told ET in a 1992 interview. And he meant it — filming was even postponed for a year to get Houston onboard. "It wasn't really a mystery to me when Whitney ended up in 'The Bodyguard,'" Costner said in a 2009 interview, per ABC News. "I really wanted her. And there was a moment in time where it was — could have maybe been somebody else. And I said, 'No, I want to wait. I want to wait for Whitney.'" 

While the "Dances with Wolves" actor had been clear about who he wanted to cast opposite him, not everyone felt his passion. "Some people weren't happy that I picked Whitney Houston to be my love interest in 'The Bodyguard,'" he told Square Mile (via Belfast Telegraph) of the feedback he received about casting a black woman.

They had undeniable chemistry

The onscreen chemistry between Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner was undeniable, and many fans still believe there was more to it than acting. Costner reflected on this in a 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, crediting Lawrence Kasdan's script for making their connection come alive. "[It was a] very funny, acidic kind of relationship that was unique. His own rhythm of language that I knew would create [sparks]," he said. "It just caught [Whitney] at a really high moment or actually created a high moment for her. The words provide the chemistry in a way."

The actor also acknowledged that there was something special about Houston in a 2009 interview (via ABC News). "I remember Whitney before she was in the movie," he said. "And I just looked at her, and I said, 'Oh man, this girl really — she just really has it.'" In the same interview, he also referred to her as "a true beauty and such a musical instrument."

There may have been mutual respect and admiration between the stars, but there have been reports of something more. A source told RadarOnline of their work on "The Bodyguard," "The chemistry between them was immediate and powerful."

Kevin Costner reflected on their film 30 years later

"The Bodyguard" is an iconic film, but it's also a celebration of Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner's professional relationship and friendship. In 2022, the actor looked back on their time together and celebrated the film's 30th anniversary with a heartfelt Instagram post. "In November, 30 years after its first premiere, 'The Bodyguard' will be returning to theaters. I couldn't be more excited that we all get to re-experience this film and the magic that happened when Whitney stepped in front of the camera," he captioned a photo of himself and Houston.

The film was also special for another reason, which Costner discussed in an interview with Parade in 2012. "I was told that the movie made a big impression on the black community because I took Whitney in my arms and kissed her, not as a black woman but as a beautiful woman. That's how I saw her," he added.

Kevin Costner praised Whitney Houston's singing abilities

Whitney Houston was an exceptionally talented singer, and her abilities were shown onscreen in "The Bodyguard." The track "I Will Always Love You" (a version of Dolly Parton's original song) became a massive hit after the film. But did Kevin Costner anticipate that it would have the impact it did?

The actor reflected on the song's success during a red carpet interview at the 2022 SAG Awards (via Entertainment Weekly). "I don't think we'll ever forget when that little song came out, that she just blew up," he said. "She sang the first part of it a cappella, and musically, the world was never the same." Interestingly, it was not the first pick for the film, as Costner would reveal in Houston's eulogy — they had initially planned to release "What Becomes of a Broken Heart."

It's clear that Costner had admiration and affection for Houston, both as a person and a powerhouse singer. "There's a lady in heaven who is making God himself wonder how he created something so perfect," he said at her funeral (via CBS News).

He wrote Whitney Houston letters

Whitney Houston was a tremendous talent, but she also experienced serious personal challenges. Her substance abuse issues have been well-documented, and she was open and honest about her attempts to stay sober. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, she touched on this, revealing that she was clean at the time of the interview.

"There are times it takes a minute to cleanse, get off," she told Oprah. "I have to pray it away. I'll have a drink every now and then. Don't get me wrong ..." She also shared that she was taking sobriety one day at a time. But Houston's drug use is something she would continue to struggle with, and it would ultimately play a part in her untimely death — it was reported she had cocaine in her system when her body was found, per People.

Kevin Costner was aware of Houston's addiction, and at the request of her loved ones, he wrote her letters. "When someone says, 'Will you write a letter to someone who you know is having trouble?' ... I did. It was two occasions ..." he told Anderson Cooper in an interview on his show "Anderson." However, he added, "I don't know if those letters were ever read."

They bonded over a childhood similarity

Fans may not realize there was a similarity between Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston that ultimately helped them bond. "[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,'" he said in her eulogy (via Huffington Post). But they connected over their experiences growing up in the Baptist church.

In a 2012 interview with Parade, the "Yellowstone" actor commented about their childhoods, explaining, "What was real between Whitney and me, what we talked about — ­being in church when we were little, both ­getting in trouble, about our not wanting to be preachers." In the same interview, he was asked about his religious beliefs and whether he continues to pray. "Yes, because I realize I have been very lucky," he responded. "I feel that there has been a hand over my life."

Faith also played an important part in Houston's life, which she acknowledged in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. "I'm so humbled and so thankful. By his grace, his goodness," Houston said. "And for never giving up on me."

He mourned her death

Whitney Houston died in February 2012 after accidentally drowning in a bathtub. She was 48 years old. Her funeral was held in Newark, New Jersey, and attended by Kevin Costner. The actor was asked by Houston's cousin, Dionne Warwick, to deliver a eulogy for the late star, and he agreed. Talking about his decision in a 2012 interview with Parade, he said, "When [Whitney died], immediately people were on the airwaves talking about it. It's unusual to watch the world talking about someone that you have a fairly unique relationship with." He added that the public reaction moved him to speak out. "This little drumbeat began: 'You need to say something,'" he explained.

Reflecting on how Houston had struggled with feeling "good enough," Costner had wanted to assure the singer that she was so much more. "You weren't just pretty, you were as beautiful as a woman could be. And people didn't just like you, they loved you," he said at her funeral (via The Washington Post). 

Kevin Costner wished he had 'saved' Whitney Houston

The impact of Whitney Houston's death would be deeply felt by her fans and loved ones, and Kevin Costner could be counted among them. The actor has also commented on wishing that he had been able to help her in the end. In some ways, he even felt responsible for her death.

"I let her down," he said in a 2012 statement in 2012 (via The Mirror). "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." He even referenced their roles in "The Bodyguard. "I saved her then, I should have saved her now."

In 2023, Costner spoke about Houston again. This time, it was at Clive Davis' pre-Grammys gala. "Neither one of us in the end could protect your beloved Whitney, but your fingerprints on her life are clean, my friend," he said in a speech honoring Davis (via Variety). "You were a miracle in her life. Thank you for being her bodyguard, Clive."

Whitney Houston had a lasting impact on Kevin Costner's life

Kevin Costner knew Whitney Houston was a talented songstress when he advocated for her to be cast in "The Bodyguard." However, what he may not have expected was the close bond they would share. "She was a very important person to me and the world has connected us in a way that we'll never not be," he said in an interview with "Good Morning America" (via ABC News). "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."

Despite the many other famous faces at the funeral, there was a reason Costner was asked to speak, and his words were filled with love and meaning. Dionne Warwick reflected on why she asked the "The Highwaymen" actor to be a part of Houston's funeral in a 2023 interview with Fox News. "When I called him and asked him to speak at her funeral, he asked me, 'I don't know what I'm going to say,'" she recalled. "I said, 'Well, just speak from your heart.' And I'm certain that's what he did at the event as well."