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Kevin Costner said he refused to shorten his 17-minute eulogy for Whitney Houston: "I was her imaginary bodyguard."

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Kevin Costner has opened up about his friendship with Whitney Houston, more than 30 years after they filmed "The Bodyguard" together. Costner also spoke about his eulogy for the late singer, who died in 2012 at the age of 48, telling the "Armchair Expert" podcast that he refused to let his speech for his friend be cut short.

Costner, who not only starred in but produced the 1992 film, said he saw Houston on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and knew he wanted to cast her in the movie, which is about a singer who has a stalker and falls in love with her bodyguard.

Costner said the film's director, Mick Johnson, didn't want to cast Houston. "She's really smart. That was a movie I probably should have directed. I just thought somebody could do a better job. But he was uncomfortable with her," he told hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. "She was my choice. So I was the actor. I produced it. I picked her."

He told Houston she couldn't have an entourage on set, but he promised to take care of her. "And I don't know what it was, but we had a moment, and I realized that the world had a higher idea of who we were, so I basically embraced it. I was her imaginary bodyguard," he said. 

Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in "The Bodyguard." Warner Brothers

Costner said Houston, who was already a powerhouse singer at the time but had few acting roles, trusted him. "I started to guide her, and I wasn't trying to usurp my director. But I made a promise to her," he said, not to the director.

He said he promised Houston and record producer Clive Davis the movie would be a hit and that he fought to keep scenes in the movie. "The Bodyguard" grossed nearly $122 million, according to Box Office Mojo, and Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" for the film went on to win several awards, including a Grammy for Record of the Year. 

"And that was my promise to her," Costner said. "She's always gonna love me in the song. I was always gonna keep my promise to her." 

The pair stayed friends until Houston's death from accidental drowning at the Beverly Hilton hotel. Houston had been ravaged by years of drug abuse and an autopsy report found "cocaine and metabolites" in her system at the time of her death. Costner said he didn't see she was in any pain.

Houston's aunt, singer Dionne Warwick, asked him to speak at the memorial service, which he initially didn't want to do. 

Costner said he spent a week writing the speech and when he got to the church, it felt electric, but he still didn't feel he was the right person to deliver it. Yet, he ultimately decided to do it.

Kevin Costner delivers a eulogy for Whitney Houston at New Hope Baptist Church.  CBS

But the eulogy almost hit a snag when he heard that CNN, which was broadcasting the funeral, wanted speakers to keep their remarks short due to commercial breaks. "And I said, they can get over that," Costner said. "They can play the commercial while I'm talking. I don't care. But I've come here when I didn't want, you know, I didn't want to do two minutes."

The eulogy, he said, was 17 minutes long. "And you said everything?" Shepard asked.

"That I felt I needed to say," Costner replied.

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