Today, December 22, 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of “Waiting to Exhale,” which was, for a time, the highest grossing feature film written by, directed by and starring an all-black cast (adjusted for inflation, it’s a $100+ million grosser). It was also actor Forest Whitaker’s theatrical feature directorial debut (before that, he directed a TV movie titled “Strapped”).
And to celebrate the film’s 20th birthday, “Waiting to Exhale” is featured as today’s “Movie of the Day” on iTunes, which means you can pick up a copy for 50% off the original price. Follow this link to do so before the day ends: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id987008789.
Of course I can’t talk about the film without mentioning the fact that a sequel to it has long been in the works, but, as of this year, appears to be dead.
The year Whitney Houston died, the talk was on whether the upcoming sequel to “Waiting To Exhale” would at all be affected her passing, and if the project would actually push forward.
In 2012, it looked like the answer to that question was yes, with questions lingering on whether Houston would simply be replaced, or if the character would be written off, with maybe an early mention in the sequel by one of the other characters, that she’d either passed, or maybe moved to Italy, or something like that. Those questions were never answered. Although then Fox 2000 Pictures prez Elizabeth Gabler spoke on the matter, saying it wasn’t inconceivable that Oprah Winfrey would play a new character to make up for Whitney’s absence.
However, as Gabler also cautioned, no deals had been done with anyone at the time.
Skip ahead to earlier this year, in January, to an interview author Terry McMillan gave to S2Smagazine.com, in which she said that the sequel was pretty much dead. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. I really don’t,” McMillan said. “It’s been horrible since Whitney passed away for a whole lot of reasons. Fox wanted to basically eliminate that character altogether from the story. How they thought that was going to work, I don’t know […] They got somebody else to write the script. There have been two or three drafts, but it just wasn’t working […] It was a story that I thought was more compelling than trying to compete with the predecessor. That’s Hollywood. I think it’s kinda dead in the water.”
Michael Elliott (“Just Wright” and “Brown Sugar”) was hired to pen the screenplay.
McMillan was certainly open to the idea of a new actress playing Houston’s role, or maybe a new character being written in, stating: “As much as I loved Whitney and I loved her in that role…any time they can have seven different 007s, as iconic as Whitney was and still was, it was a role. It wasn’t Whitney Houston; it was Savannah; you know what I mean.”
She then chimed in with what actress she would like to see in the film. “I still think that Viola Davis would have done and could do a great job playing Savannah.”
But it doesn’t matter now, it appears; unless there’s suddenly interest in the idea of a sequel all over again. And that very well could happen – especially if a similar film made by some other studio is released and performs well at the box office, and films like this become of interest to the suits again. Right now, when it comes to black cinema, historical dramas and biopics seem to be what’s in style.
To be based on McMillan’s book (just as the original film was) “Getting To Happy,” as the sequel was to be called, was housed at Fox 2000 Pictures, shepherded by the original “Exhale” director Forest Whitaker.
The original starring cast (minus Whitney Houston of course) were expected to return.
Head over to iTunes for the first film’s 20th anniversary special: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id987008789.