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The Ending Of The Bodyguard Explained

With the Whitney Houston biopic, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" slated to hit screens in December, it's the perfect time to revisit Houston's acting debut, starring opposite Kevin Costner as a pop star threatened by a stalker in, "The Bodyguard." Although critics panned the film, it was a box office mega-hit and produced the all-time best-selling movie soundtrack. It's a doomed love story about two people from different worlds forming a bond during intense events, but it also explores the dark side of celebrity.

In 1989, three years before "The Bodyguard" was released, actress Rebecca Schaeffer was murdered by her stalker, Robert John Bardo, who shot Schaeffer at her L.A. apartment. The murder shook the entertainment industry and led to new legislation in California to prevent stalking. Although the script for Houston's debut film was written long before this tragedy, the fear of dangerous stalkers became palpable for celebrities (per E! News).

"The Bodyguard" tells the story of Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston), a pop star anticipating her first Oscar nomination, who is forced to employ a new bodyguard when her manager, Devaney (Bill Cobbs), is troubled by threatening letters sent to the singer. Devaney convinces Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner), a former Secret Service agent, to protect Rachel. Rachel is resistant to Frank's strict methods but finds herself intrigued by the taciturn bodyguard. After a scare in Miami, Rachel agrees to do anything Frank suggests to keep her son safe. Stick with us, and we'll explain the ending of "The Bodyguard." 

The motorboat explodes

After receiving a phone call from her stalker in her Miami hotel suite, Rachel finally admits she is afraid. Despite the rising tension between Rachel and Frank, after he opted to keep things professional after their spontaneous tryst and shared attraction, Rachel agrees to do anything Frank believes will keep her family safe. Frank takes Rachel, her sister Nicki (Michele Lamar Richards), her son Fletcher (DeVaughn Nixon), and her chauffeur Henry (Christopher Birt) to his father Herb's (Ralph Waite) lakeside cabin.

On the second morning at the cabin, Frank notices tracks in the snow around the cabin and panics when he realizes Fletcher, who isn't a good swimmer, is trying to take the motorboat out by himself. Frank dives off the dock, knocking Fletcher out of the motorboat and into the freezing water, before swimming back to the dock with the boy. Rachel screams that Frank could have drowned Fletcher, and Frank apologizes, saying, "I'm sorry. I got careless," moments before the boat explodes.

This explosion confirms the stalker threatening Rachel has followed them from Los Angeles to the cabin. When they discover the phone lines have been cut and both vehicles have been disabled, it's clear this isn't the work of an obsessive fan, but a professional hitman. Frank and his father Herb are perplexed by how the stalker found them because the cabin has nothing to do with Rachel and everything to do with Frank's life.

Rachel's sister Nicki admits she hired the hitman

Unable to leave the cabin because the cars were disabled, Frank secures the windows and doors, intent on keeping everyone safe through the night so they can hike to town at dawn. When Frank finds Nicki drinking in the kitchen, she is distraught and admits she hired a hitman at a bar in East L.A. through an intermediary named Armando. Nicki explains that the threatening letters were already coming, and they gave her the idea of hiring the hitman.

Fletcher, being put in harm's way, was a wake-up call for Nicki, making the contract on Rachel's life suddenly all too real. Nicki insists through tears that despite hiring a hitman because she hates her sister, she would never harm Fletcher. This admission brings us back to Nicki and Frank's conversation earlier in the film about how Nicki was the one who started a band in high school but quit making music after it became clear Rachel was the star of the family.

While sibling rivalries are common and feeling jealous of a sibling's success is unsurprising, Nicki took her animosity toward her sister to a new level when she hired someone to kill Rachel in "The Bodyguard." Although Frank questions Nicki about the hitman, it quickly becomes clear the contract is paid in full, and the hitman will continue his attempts until Rachel is dead. Nicki says she doesn't know who the hitman is, and he is also unaware of her identity, making it impossible to cancel the contract on Rachel's life.

Nicki is killed when the hitman breaks into the cabin

When the hitman breaks into the cabin to kill Rachel, Nicki jumps into his path in an attempt to cancel the hit, but she is shot down before she can finish her sentence. Although some fans found Nicki and the hitman's actions during this scene perplexing, wondering if he mistook Nicki for Rachel, the events earlier in the day suggest this hitman is unconcerned with collateral damage and will kill anyone who gets in his way.

After checking for a pulse, Frank pursues the shooter through the snowy woods, and nearly shoots the hitman, using the crunch of snow under the hitman's feet to aim. Unfortunately, the hitman escapes in a getaway car parked on the road near the cabin, and Frank must go back to the cabin to deal with the death of Nicki.

The next morning, Frank checks in with the FBI agents he consulted with in L.A. about the letters, learning the obsessed fan sending the threatening letters to Rachel has been identified and apprehended back in Los Angeles, confirming what Nicki told Frank about the letters coming from another source. Frank requests they hold the suspect in L.A. for as long as they can, but having two credible threats against his client just made Frank's job much more difficult.

Frank admits to Fletcher what he's afraid of

After Nicki's funeral, Frank has a conversation with Fletcher when the boy tells Frank he can't sleep because he's too afraid. Frank tells Fletcher, "Everybody's afraid of something. That's how we know we care about things when we're afraid we'll lose them," explaining he isn't afraid of the man who shot Nicki, but "I'm afraid of not... being there," to protect Rachel.

This conversation between Fletcher and Frank harkens back to Frank's father, Herb, telling Rachel that Frank has never forgiven himself for taking the day off when President Reagan was shot to attend his mother's funeral. Reagan's assignation attempt was a defining moment in Frank's life and career as a Secret Service agent. Because he could not forgive himself for not being there to protect the president, Frank went into private security, only accepting short-term positions and building a wall between himself and his clients.

This admission helps us understand why Frank resisted becoming romantically involved with Rachel, despite his attraction to her. Even after their night together, Frank pulls away from her, reestablishing a professional distance, because he needs to keep it clear in his mind what his priorities are as her bodyguard. This also helps us understand the significance of Frank apologizing to Rachel on the dock for getting "careless" and letting down his guard long enough to enjoy visiting his father. Frank is terrified of failing another client.

Frank doesn't tell Rachel her sister hired a hitman

One might think Frank tells Rachel about Nicki off-screen because of his integrity and insistence earlier in the film that Rachel's manager and publicist, Sy Spector (Gary Kemp), be transparent with Rachel about the severity of the letters if he was going to take the job as Rachel's new bodyguard. Still, Frank doesn't tell Rachel that Nicki hired the hitman. Frank probably believes there was no point in telling Rachel, since Nicki is dead, and the information would only hurt Rachel's feelings.

By doing this, Frank violates his own standards of transparency and does the same thing Rachel's manager and publicist did when they kept the threatening letters from Rachel, thinking they would only disturb her. Doesn't Rachel deserve to know the truth about her own life and the danger she is in? Considering how strong-willed and tough Rachel is, it is surprising these men feel the need to shelter Rachel from reality by keeping secrets.

Frank has the perfect opportunity to tell Rachel the truth about Nicki's actions when Rachel tells him she will go to the Academy Awards ceremony despite not knowing why she is being pursued by a killer. Rachel explains she's gotten where she is in life by taking risks and following her gut. From Frank's startled expression, it is clear this statement strikes Frank as significant, and perhaps he feels taking a chance on romance with Rachel is something he should consider.

Despite the threat, Rachel attends the Oscars

Despite the looming threat, Rachel is intent on attending the Oscars, saying, "Screw it. I'm tired of worrying about it. When your time is up, it's up. Right, Frank?" This was a sentiment Whitney Houston related to. In a 1992 interview, Houston told Jimmy Carter, "I identified with Rachel so much" and explained she had received threatening letters from a fan in the past.

Houston shared that much like her character Rachel in "The Bodyguard," Houston went on stage despite the threats. She didn't cancel her show and performed for the fans who had come out to see her. Houston admitted it wasn't just for her fans, she didn't want to let one dangerous fanatic take what she loved to do away from her.

As soon as Rachel's limousine arrives on the red carpet, the tension is palpable, and her team is on edge. The crowd eagerly awaits her outside, and the constant buzzing action behind the scenes depicts how difficult it will be for Frank and Tony (Mike Starr) to protect Rachel when they can't be at her side every moment during the Oscar ceremony.

The kicker comes when the production team tells Frank he must shut off his earpiece because it is causing feedback on their communication devices. Once Frank can't speak with Tony over the earpiece, it is clear everything will work against Frank's efforts to keep Rachel safe in the choreographed chaos of an Oscars ceremony.

Rachel panics while presenting an award onstage

Although Frank says nothing about suspecting the hitman will make another attempt on her life during the ceremony, Rachel senses how tense Frank has become after being forced to turn off his communication radio. When it is time for her to present an award onstage, Rachel insists Frank accompanies her to the edge of the stage.

Despite her tough talk while arriving at the Oscars, Rachel clutches the remote alarm, disguised as a cross, that Frank gave her earlier in "The Bodyguard," setting it off repeatedly while onstage. Rachel loses her composure while presenting during the awards ceremony. After missing her lines, Rachel hallucinates one of her stalker's letters being pulled from the results envelope and runs off stage just as the co-presenter announces the winner.

Rachel's embarrassment over appearing flustered and unprofessional leads to an emotional outburst backstage where Rachel slips back into her diva persona, blaming Frank for making her paranoid and saying, "Farmer! You make me into a raving lunatic," causing numerous people backstage to comment on her being dramatic, including the Oscar host.

Frank realizes who the hitman is

After Rachel's outburst, Frank realizes Portman (Tomas Arana), the bodyguard who Frank spoke with at the charity event in Miami and earlier at the Oscars, is nowhere near the Oscar host whom Portman claimed to be guarding during the awards show. Frank suddenly realizes Portman, whom Frank worked with in the Secret Service, must be the hired hitman.

Suddenly, everything clicks into place as Frank realizes Portman knows enough about Frank's personal life to have tracked them to his father's cabin where Nicki was killed. This is also when the audience realizes just how close Rachel came to being murdered in Miami when she invited Portman into her bedroom while trying to make Frank jealous.

Portman has the perfect cover for a contract killer; he is a bodyguard and former Secret Service agent who knows enough about private security to know how to talk his way into restricted events and has the experience as a bodyguard to anticipate Frank's actions while trying to protect his client. Unfortunately, Rachel is too angry and embarrassed to listen to Frank when he tells her, "Rachel, I know who it is."

Frank takes a bullet to save Rachel's life

When Rachel wins the best actress and walks onstage to accept her Academy Award, Portman shoots at Rachel with a gun disguised as a television camera. Frank throws himself in front of Rachel at the last moment and takes a bullet to save her life. This causes chaos amongst the audience when they see Frank has a gun. Despite the commotion, Frank shoots and kills Portman before he can kill Rachel or escape.

As Frank loses consciousness from blood loss, we see the briefest flicker of relief on his face that Rachel is unharmed and he could be there in the right place at the right time to protect her as he had promised he would. Frank and Rachel had already talked about fearing death after they watched a samurai movie on their date, and from that conversation, it was clear Frank doesn't fear death nearly as much as he fears not being able to protect others from death.

As Frank told Rachel on their date, sacrificing himself to protect her is "the job," which is a concept Whitney Houston found mind-boggling. In an interview, Houston said, "If they are truly bodyguards, then they are willing to sacrifice their life to save yours. Which is a deep concept to me anyway, 'cause... I mean... me, I don't know if I could do it."

Frank quits being Rachel's bodyguard

Despite making a genuine romantic connection after protecting Rachel from the hitman at the Oscars, Frank finds Rachel a new bodyguard to replace him and they go their separate ways. As they kiss goodbye on the tarmac, "I Will Always Love You" plays as a tribute to what they shared. Ultimately, Frank and Rachel are mature enough to recognize that their lives won't fit together despite their chemistry. In an interview, Whitney Houston said, "Their worlds just don't mix," despite the respect and care they feel for each other. In the same interview, director Mick Jackson agreed with Houston, saying, "This was about two people who fall in love, and also this is a collision of two worlds."

Although some viewers were disappointed by this ending, director Jackson thought it was cinematic and romantic, saying, "They don't get together in the end. It's almost like 'Casablanca,'" ending on a bittersweet note. The scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan, thought the film left it more open-ended, saying, "in the original draft it was clear they would never come back together." In the last moments of "The Bodyguard," we see they have both gone back to their separate lives. Rachel is performing onstage, and Frank has moved on to his next client and back to his comfort zone, protecting an archbishop at a political event. Despite his fascination with Rachel, Frank is too guarded and set in his ways to take a risk by diving into a relationship with Rachel.

The proposed sequel clarified Rachel and Frank's future

Although some viewers, and the scriptwriter, felt the ending of "The Bodyguard" left Rachel and Frank's future open-ended, the premise of the sequel made it clear they had gone their separate ways. Costner told People the sequel would have been built around Princess Diana's character being protected from the paparazzi by Frank Farmer. Costner told People that Diana's sister-in-law, affectionately known as Fergie, was involved, saying, "Sarah [Ferguson] was really important. I always respect Sarah because she's the one that set up the conversation between me and Diana."

Although a sequel was never made, it was pitched and a preliminary script was written. As reported by The Guardian, Kevin Costner received the first draft of the script the day before Princess Diana died in a car crash on August 31, 1997. The sequel was permanently shelved after Princess Diana's tragic death. The role the paparazzi played in the events leading to Diana's death was eerily similar to the general concept of the sequel.

Although we never got a sequel, a reboot is in the works. According to Entertainment Weekly, Matthew López, the first Latiné playwright to win a Tony Award for "The Inheritance" is attached to write the script. He told Variety, "Instead of focusing on an established star like the one Whitney Houston played, this is about a young Latina performer who has just become famous. It's about how her life has changed because she is an overnight sensation," and we can't wait to see who they cast as the rising star.