Kevin Costner Shares His Promise to Whitney Houston, Recalls Giving Her Eulogy

Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston famously starred together in the 1992 classic, 'The Bodyguard,' 20 years before she died in 2012.

Over 20 years after Kevin Costner starred opposite Whitney Houston in the 1992 classic film, The Bodyguard, the 69-year-old is looking back on his relationship with the late singer and his infamous eulogy at her funeral 20 years after they first met.

During a new appearance on Dax Shepard and Monica Padman's Armchair Expert podcast, Costner recalled his time with Houston -- who was only 29 when the film hit theaters in November 1992. The romantic drama -- in which Houston played a famous singer with a stalker who falls in love with her bodyguard, played by Costner -- received mixed reviews, but it was massively successful at the box office, earning $410 million worldwide.

"She was my choice," the two-time Oscar winner says. "So I was the actor, I produced it and I picked her." 

Costner claims that director Mick Johnson was "uncomfortable" with Houston as the leading lady, but Costner was determined to have the singer make her feature debut in the film. 

"Listen, the first girl I thought was pretty was Diana Ross. I saw her on The Ed Sullivan Show and I thought, 'F**k yes, let's go, that's pretty.' And I'm like 10 years old. I know what pretty is," he tells Shepard and Padman. "I loved her, so it's not like this giant mystery. So I knew that she should be the one."

Kevin Costner recalls his friendship with the late Whitney Houston, whom he starred alongside in 1992's 'The Bodyguard.' - Michael Caulfield/WireImage

Costner says that Houston "trusted him" in a way she didn't anyone else on production. "I started to guide her and I wasn't trying to usurp my director, but l had made a promise to her," he shares. "I had promised Whitney that she'd be good in it...We had this movie that worked and that was my promise to her. She's always gonna love me in the song and I was always gonna keep my promise to her."

The bond between Costner and Houston remained tight throughout the years -- so much so that the actor was called upon to give a eulogy at her public memorial in February 2012.

The actor tells Shepard and Padman that he initially didn't want to speak at the funeral, and it was only at the urging of Dionne Warwick that he accepted the invitation to eulogize his dear friend. 

"I just said yes. I could feel the weight on her, now it's shifted to me. What am I gonna say about this little girl? And [then I] went back to that church in Newark and it was filled," he remembers. "It was electric. There were two bands playing, the church was alive. It was like boom!"

Costner admits that he felt unqualified to make the speech, quipping that he saw Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer in the crowd and wanted to ask if they would give his speech for him. 

Kevin Costner with the late Whitney Houston and his wife, Cindy Costner, at the premiere of 1992's 'The Bodyguard.' - Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

"I had been working on this speech...And I tried to compile everything I wanted to do and finally crafted this speech," he says. "Somebody said, 'CNN's here, they wouldn't mind if your remarks were kept shorter because they're going to have commercials.' And I said, 'They can get over that. They can play the commercial while I'm talking, I don't care.'"

"And I started and about 17 minutes later I was done," Costner adds, saying that he felt like he had said everything he "needed to say" in those minutes.

Costner was one of the eight speakers at Houston's funeral. In his emotional and widely praised eulogy, he recalled that "I Will Always Love You" was not originally meant to be in The Bodyguard" as the first choice was "What Becomes of a Broken Heart."

"So, what becomes of our broken hearts?" he asked. "Whitney returns home today to the place where it all began, and I urge us all, inside and outside, across the nation and around the world, to dry our tears, suspend our sorrow - and perhaps our anger - just long enough, just long enough to remember the sweet miracle of Whitney."

Even more successful was The Bodyguard soundtrack, on which Whitney co-executive produced and recorded six new songs. Her cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” remains one of the best-selling physical singles of all time -- going platinum 18 times over -- and won the performer the GRAMMY Awards for Album of the Year and Record of the Year in 1994. The album would go on to be named the top-selling Soundtrack Album of the Century by the RIAA.

Speaking with ET at the 2022 Oscars red carpet, Costner recalled of his time with Houston, "She was a really street-smart girl, she knew stuff."

"I knew she could handle the part but she wasn't sure she could handle it," Costner added. "There came a moment where she had to make a decision and I saw her trust me and we had that, from that moment on."

"That was my promise to her, that she'd look great and be great," he added with a smile. The film went on to earn two Oscar nominations -- both for Best Original Song -- and became an international box office smash.