WB charmed by ‘Sparkle’

Aaliyah eyed in title role of '76 remake

NEW YORK — Warner Bros. has set a remake of the 1976 film “Sparkle” with singer-actress Aaliyah poised to play the title role originated by Irene Cara.

“Sparkle” was set up by Whitney Houston and Debra Martin Chase’s BrownHouse Prods. Aaliyah made her film debut alongside Jet Li in WB’s Joel Silver-produced actioner “Romeo Must Die.” That film has grossed more than $60 million and spawned a strong selling soundtrack featuring Aaliyah’s song “Try Again.”Powered by a Curtis Mayfield soundtrack and vocals by Cara and Lonette McKee, the original “Sparkle” chronicled the rise and fall of a group of singing sisters during the 1960s. The story closely paralleled that of Diana Ross and the Supremes. The film was directed by Sam O’Steen and scripted by Joel Schumacher.

“Whitney and I always loved the movie, and felt that the music business is so pervasive, it’s surprising there hasn’t been a contemporary look at what happens behind the scenes,” Chase said. “And the studio wanted to be in the Aaliyah business.”

E. Lynn Harris, making his screenwriting debut, has been signed to pen the contemporized redo. Harris calls the original “an African-American classic.”The remake will have an entirely new soundtrack. Aaliyah has been topping the charts since making her recording debut at age 14 in 1994 with the platinum-selling album “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.”

It’s the second recent screen development for BrownHouse, which will produce “The Princess Diaries,” a comedy greenlit by Walt Disney Pictures with Garry Marshall directing.Houston and Chase will produce the new “Sparkle,” and Lori Lakin will be associate producer. The project will be shepherded by WB exec Kevin McCormick.

Aaliyah is repped by CAA and managed by Diane and Michael Haughton; Harris is repped by Irv Schwartz of AMG/Renaissance and John Hawkins & Associates; and BrownHouse is repped by William Morris and attorney Frederick Gaines.

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