CBC project to chronicle singer’s rise to stardom



nathan denette/canadian press


Christine Ghawi, who plays Celine Dion, listens to director Jeff Woolnough during a rehearsal for the movie Celine.


When it comes to portraying a character as larger-than-life as Quebec diva Celine Dion, over-the-top is definitely the way to go.

Like, outrageous drag queen over-the-top, which is how newcomer Christine Ghawi snagged the coveted lead role in an upcoming biopic of the chanteuse, Celine.

“I did a transvestite doing Celine Dion,” Ghawi says of her off-kilter audition in which she belted out My Heart Will Go On.

“It was funny, it was really funny. They burst out laughing.”

Ghawi’s caricature had been perfected years earlier for a play performed at Montreal’s fringe festival — it was a spoof of the raunchy HBO series, Sex And The City. She had initially been cast as a transvestite with a penchant for Dion’s sappy balladry but ended up being recast in the lead role of Carrie Bradshaw.

In the upcoming CBC-TV film, Celine, Ghawi tones down the parody but did spend hours poring over the iconic singer’s CDs, music videos, taped interviews and concerts to nail down every nuanced inflection.

The project is being sold as an inspirational rags-to-riches tale and chronicles Dion’s rise to stardom from humble beginnings in Charlemagne, Que., where she was the youngest of 14 children.

It also traces Dion’s unconventional romance with her much older manager and current husband, Rene Angelil (portrayed by Enrico Colantoni of Veronica Mars and Just Shoot Me).

But producer Laszlo Barna says the two-hour feature will steer clear of dishing dirt on the popular diva, who in more recent years has drawn unflattering attention for her fashion failings, outlandish second wedding in Vegas and hyper-produced, effusive vocals.