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Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his directorial debut with an adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical musical
- Guys, this is the biggest break I've ever had. This is that moment.
ETHAN ALTER: I had to start off by asking about that great all-star Broadway cast in the Sunday number, which brought the roof down in [INAUDIBLE] Theater. What was it like that day on set having all this legends?
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: I had the opportunity, as a filmmaker, to make Jonathan Larson's dream choir, and that was the goal. The goal was to make a choir so full of Jonathan's heroes, past, present, and future, that he can hear it wherever he is, even though he's no longer with us. I called on the folks in the shows that Jonathan loved.
I called on the folks from my favorite musicals of the modern era and everything in between. We filmed this during COVID, but pre-vaccine. So the layers of quarantine we had to do to keep some of those legends safe, filming them six feet apart from each other and tiling them in, it was enormously complex. It was what I imagined, like, a John Wick sequence feels like. It was my only John Wick sequence in the movie, just incredibly elaborate, but totally worth it. Because the reveals that keep happening over the course of it were so exciting.
ETHAN ALTER: Is there anyone you wanted to get, but weren't able to? Was there, like, a dream person for you?
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: Yeah, I will tell you that I do have a brief cameo in the scene leading up to that sequence, and I was not supposed to be in this movie. I wanted to get the great Chip and Joanna, the baker and his wife from Into The Woods, as the bakers in the [INAUDIBLE] diner. But COVID made that impossible, so I, basically, jumped in. Because I had already done my testing and clearance, and I could do it. I think everyone enjoyed watching maybe directing a chef's outfit all day.
ETHAN ALTER: Was there one person, in particular, who you were especially excited to meet out of everyone you got to work with on that?
ANDREW GARFIELD: Yeah, I think it reads. I think it reads in the moment that we captured on film, and it's how Jonathan feels about this person. And it's how I feel about this person. There was no acting required. It was Bernadette Peters, the legend that she is.
It was very special for me, but it was overwhelming, for sure. Luckily, you know, the direction that I was going that I had to play in the scene, I had to treat them all like my diner customers who I'm not huge fans of. My imagination kind of settled my systems. Otherwise, I would have been just sobbing on my knees all day and just kind of bowing to everybody. That got me through, because, otherwise, I would have been a mess.
- You get to a certain age, and you stop being a writer who waits tables. And you become a waiter with a hobby.
ETHAN ALTER: A lot of young artists now are struggling as Jonathan did at the time to pay the rent, you know? Jonathan wrote a song about it. How do advise them on the compromises they might have to make as they pursue that dream?
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: I mean, honestly, I took lessons from that show. I knew, oh, I need to get a job that will cover my rent and utilities and to give me the most amount of time to write. My first job out of college, I taught seventh grade English at my old high school, and I was essentially a substitute teacher from 2002 to 2007 when In The Heights premiered off Broadway. That was my way of paying the rent and continuing to do what I love.
VANESSA HUDGENS: It's rare to see the grind, and the struggle, and the grit, and the perseverance you have to have in order to reach success. And with this movie, we see Jonathan just clawing his way, trying to express this thing that he has inside of him that he knows he needs to get out not really succeeding, you know? He writes this musical that no one wants to produce, and he had to experience that failure in order to move forward and go on to the next one. But it's about picking yourself up, and moving forward, and knowing that the struggle is going to be there. But with love, and passion, and commitment to whatever it is that you have your heart set on, you can do it.
ETHAN ALTER: The key line of the film's final song is what does it take to wake up a generation, and I wonder how you hope this film version wakes up this generation.
- Well, it's funny. I think that there's something happening right now with young people, which is from my understanding, young musical theater kids right now in high school. They want to do two plays. They want to do Hamilton or Rent, and that's about revolution. They're both about waking up a generation. They're both about going against the status quo and changing systems, which is, obviously, a vitally important act right now, and people waking up and seeing that the current culture that we're living in doesn't necessarily support the greater good. It doesn't necessarily support reminding us of our interconnectedness.
ALEXANDRIA SHIPP: The question that this movie asks is, what are we going to do with the time that we have? I think that asks us, how can we be more present? We're glued to our phones. We're glued to this idea of content, and influencing, and taste making, and curating.
We forget to look up, and we forget to make that human connection and look at each other in the eye. And I don't want that to be lost because of technology. I don't want that to be lost because of likes, and favorites, and reposts, and the amount of characters you can fit into one tweet. I want people to be able to see this movie and go, oh, that's right. Let me focus on my physical community just as much as my online.