'Sparkle,' Whitney Houston's Final Bow

The cast and crew discuss the film that was supposed to be the singing legend's comeback.
3:00 | 08/14/12

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Transcript for 'Sparkle,' Whitney Houston's Final Bow
CC2 Test message CC1 Test m Her death, but this weekend, whitney houston will be back on big screens across america starring in "sparkle" a film she also helped co-produce. It was a project close to her heart. And those who worked with her say the whitney they saw on the set was different than the whitney with a tragic end. Abc's deborah roberts reports. ♪ His eye his eye is on the shadow ♪ Reporter: It's the emotional pinnacle any movie sides for. But this one, a tragedy. ♪ Reporter: Whitney houston, her voice battered but still beautiful, belting out "his eye's on the sparrow." Her very last performance. The song res sonates with her own gospel roots before she came a giant star. Six months after her death, whitney's starring in "sparkle" a remake of her favorite film, one she would watch over and OVER AS A TEEN BACK IN THE '70s. In a role that wants to be her much anticipated comeback, whitney plays a strict matriarch with three daughters. My babies. ♪ Reporter: All gifted singers. She wants them to focus on school and god. They want stardom. The film was a dream project for whitney who helped bring it to life with deborah martin chase, her longtime friend and producing partner. Together, they've had a string of hits, including "the princess diaries." "Sparkle" was for them both. It was a first time we saw young women of color fabulous. And so when she mentioned 12 years ago, why don't we make "sparkle?" Well, of course. Reporter: A lot happened. The project stalled when the r&b star aaliyah originally cast in the role died in a plane crash. Then whitney spirals into a much publicized drug problem. Were you worried whitney would rise to the occasion given her struggles? Honestly. I never doubted she could do it. I knew her and I knew how much it meant to her. She both wanted it and needed. Reporter: So last year when "sparkle" was finally ready to shoot, she said whitney was ready. Taking on the role of no nonsense emma. I guess I'll be me. I will not encourage you to take your life to hell. Reporter: Whitney, the american breakout star who vowed us with that voice. She saw a lot of stuff in jordin. Started about the same age, thrust into the world in a big way. When she wasn't working, she'd go "i've got to come up and see my baby." Reporter: And when jordin was there with the song "one wing" whitney was there. When I did "one wing" she was like, come here. She put her face in my hands and she was like, you're everything we're looking for. And I just completely lost it. ♪ Reporter: But her most memorable moment would come in song with whitney. They got me celebrating. I loved the song. It was just so happy and joyful. And they said, why don't you do a duet. I was like, duet with who? They said whitney, and I was like please let it happen. Please let it happen. Reporter: And it did. Whitney would record the track ON FEBRUARY 7th. Four days later, she was dead. There were other times in her life had I gotten that call, i would have been devastated. But not totally surprised. It's the last thing I ever, ever thought. Reporter: It was the night of the grammys. Jordin was getting ready to walk the red carpet to approximately "sparkle" when the phone rang. I couldn't handle it. I was like, let's turn on the tv and it's there. There across the bottom, whitney houston passes away. It was like a movie where there was just no reaction. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't say anything. And somebody had to sit me down before I fell over. And I just lost it. I completely lost it. Reporter: For deborah martin chase, is this a bittersweet day, she's releasing a treasured project without its biggest star. Now, a haunting voice from the grave. A reminder of what went wrong. I feel like this is my gift to her. Because this is what people will remember. They will remember her beautiful. And spiritual. And strong. And passionate. For this movie. ♪ Reporter: I'm deborah roberts for "nightline" in los angeles.

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