The late Whitney Houston’s new documentary, Whitney, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday night, and made a stunning revelation that shocked audience members.
The Kevin Macdonald-directed film revealed that Whitney was abused by her cousin, Dionne Warwick’s late sister Dee-Dee. Macdonald tells Deadline that Whitney’s brother Gary confirmed the alleged child abuse.
“I first began to suspect that there might be some kind of abuse involved before anyone had actually told me,” Macdonald declared. “I just had a sense, having sat watching interviews about her, watching footage of her, I had a feeling that there was something wrong with her. There was something preventing her, in some way, from expressing her real self.”
“She felt uncomfortable in her own skin in almost every interview there was with her,” he added. “And I thought that was a very strange thing, and it kind of reminded me of people I’d seen who had suffered from abuse, just in their body language and their sense of holding something back… and then somebody mentioned it off-camera to me. They wouldn’t talk about it on camera, but they said Whitney had said to her that something had happened.”
McDonald received confirmation of the alleged abuse during an interview with Gary and his wife Pat Houston, who served as Whitney’s manager.
“He (Gary) told me that he was abused by a woman in the family, and Pat Houston told me that, yes, Whitney had said to her, ‘This is what happened’… and then, on the next interview, Gary did tell me who it was,” the director recalls.
“Then I (interviewed) Mary Jones, who was Whitney’s longtime assistant… and she told me Whitney’s point of view on this, and what Whitney had told her in detail, and how important she felt it was for understanding Whitney, but how scared everyone was to talk about it.”
For a while, McDonald struggled with how he would highlight the bombshell revelation in the documentary.
“We did have a lot of debate about it: ‘How do you present material like this, and how do you do it in a way that’s going to be fair to the family and to somebody who’s accused who is also deceased?’” he shares.
“In the end, we felt that we had three different people saying this. One of them, Gary, was also abused, so, we felt that having direct testimony of somebody saying ‘This happened to me’ meant that even if by some incredible stretch of the imagination, Whitney had been lying to everybody else about it, that there was no reason not to go public about it. All the experts I spoke to about this area and this issue told me that it’s best to talk about these things and best for them to be out… Once we got there, I felt like we had an obligation to use this.”