Lin-Manuel Miranda still believes that it was a miracle that “In height,” a musical tribute to Latino culture through the lens of the Washington Heights neighborhood, made for Broadway. Back in 2008, before striving for inclusion became the standard of the entertainment industry, she and playwright Quira Alegria Hoods about Unknown A joyful tale was carrying forward.
what is ours great performance Inspired by her families and neighbors, she finally reaches the big screen (and.) hbo max) after stumbling through several studios this week. Warner Bros. Director John M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) was eventually entrusted with the project.
In retrospect, Miranda said, it was naive to think that it would be easy to get the show from the stage to the multiplex. It took over a decade.
“Some of the hurdles were about Hollywood’s reluctance to take risks and invest in new talent,” Miranda said. “When you watch this film which John has directed so beautifully, you see a screen full of movie stars, but some of them you may not have heard of before. They were film stars without the roles they had to play. It was necessary to become a film star.”
The film features a cast of budding and experienced talent, including Anthony Ramos as a bodega owner with dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic, Melissa Barrera as an aspiring fashion designer and Leslie Grace as a struggling Stanford student, and was shot on location with all the pancakes that A$ 55 million budget. Disappointingly, Miranda said, the show and now the film remain an anomaly. He looks forward to the day when ‘In the Heights’ is ‘free from the burden of representation’, as a greater creation of its size and cultural relevance receives equal support and exposure.
QUIARA ALEGRA HUDES I knew we had to make some cuts just for length and focus. I love every character and I love every song, so it’s difficult. But those songs had traveled the world, they went to high schools and professional theaters and community theatres. There was life in those songs even if they made it into the film. It freed me up to say, “Let me try to add something new to their experience.” For example, losing Camila Rosario [the iron-willed mother of the Stanford student] Really sad because anyone who is my friend knows that I am very matriarchal. I come from this lineage of very strong women. It was really difficult to cut the character of mother. What I did was I put even more of that maternal, strong, grounded feeling into the rest of the film. Daniella, the owner of the salon, becomes even more central as a matriarch in the community.
Lin-Manuel Miranda On the musical side of things, every song in this film is; They may appear as scores such as “sunrise”. As a very smart update to Quora, we have snuck in every fiber of the music that people love from the show in some form or the other in the film.
John, tell me about entering this world that already had a history.
John M. Chu I came into it maybe a little bombastic like, “Hey, I don’t develop movies. I can help make this movie.” But what they have created is not just a pretense. It is a life force. He told me, “Just wait and trust us.” I took it with a grain of salt, and we went through a lot of hoops and obstacles to get there. Every time there was a conflict, he’d say, “It’s going to find its way.” Then the pandemic happened and I was like, “You guys weren’t kidding.” Who knew the dart we threw would hit the moment the world was reopening. The people of “In the Heights”, who fight over things that are meant for each other, are the ones who are going to show the world how to rise again. That vitality found its ideal place.
miranda John also understood the lived experience of being the son of a first generation of immigrants and having parents who worked miracles and created a path where there was no way. I knew it would be valuable to bring to our show.
A significant change is the decision to create the character of Nina, played by the elite schoolgirl. Leslie Grace, an Afro-Latina woman. She also refers to herself as a Triguana, which means it was more than just a random casting choice.
hoodies One thing I’ve learned is that if you want to make a non-traditional or strong casting choice, you really have to write it in the dialogue otherwise it’s so easy to get away with it for production. So for that reason a word like triple is put there. I consciously wanted to make Nina Afro-Latina in this version of “In the Heights.” Since we opened the show on Broadway, this national conversation has been around subtle aggression and really interesting things that I think would apply to Nina’s situation.
John, one of the most jaw-dropping numbers based on the sheer amount of elements, is “96,000”, which is a bit like a Busby Berkeley. Showstopper set in a huge pool. Was it the most complicated to execute?
chu Each one was a new challenge, but he is up. There were about 600 extras, from 5-year-olds to 81-year-olds, and you have to think, “Oh wait, they can’t drown or get electrocuted.” You have to keep them dry so they don’t get hypothermia. But once you get the towels wet, you have to dry them. Also, oh my god, you’re going to have a barbecue grill, so you have to have an entire fire department to make sure that place doesn’t burn down. And there’s electricity too, so you have to turn it off every 30 minutes. There were countless things. But cinema is having a moment. All you have to do is get in that small frame for that little moment and you pass out.
Was there a number that any of you felt was a deal-breaker and needed to stay?
hoodies At some point, for various artistic or budget reasons, there were a number of possible cuts. You really had to make a strong argument as to why the movie needed them. Because Piraguero [who sells the Puerto Rican-style shaved-ice dessert] Is a peripheral character, at one point the song “Piragua” was ready to be cut. I tried to speak softly to Lynn about it. He was really heartbroken and I was like, “I have an idea of how the studio will let us keep that song.” so i inspired him to play [him]. That’s how he remained.
Lynn, why did you think Piraguero was so important to the story?
miranda That song is probably the fastest song I’ve ever written. However, I don’t know that I wrote it. I think I just caught it. The whole musical metaphor is inside that song. Piraguero is every character in this film. They are doing their best against impossible odds. They take a breath, then they keep on scraping. It is a one minute 45 second song, but somehow the DNA of the entire show is in that minute 45 seconds. I was so proud that that kernel got to live. My performance was a testament to my grandfather. He died a week after “In the Heights” opened on Broadway. He is a member of my family who didn’t get to see everything that came after that opening night. so i have his espejuelos [reading glasses] around my neck. i have his [Marcial Lafuente] Estefania Cowboy Novel in my pocket. I’m wearing my socks up to my tabs and the same shirt that he was supposed to wear. I’m actually playing as my abuelo.
Kiara, how did you get into the role of producer and why did you decide to take up this responsibility?
hoodies It was a lot of little things that happened organically. When we went to Warner Bros. and John came on board, they weren’t saying, “Where’s the page?” They were saying, “What do the pages mean?” I loved having those conversations and saying, “I don’t want to see stiletto heels on any salon employee. They’re women standing on their feet for eight or nine hours a day. Put them in tennis shoes.” Then John asked me. started, “What would the food look like?” And I was like, “Can we even talk about the utensils?” Then I started talking to choreographer Chris Scott about the dance casting call. I’m about to dance Don’t know much, but I knew that in Abuela’s house and out on the street, you were going to see elderly people dancing and they were going to school young people. At some point I said, “I want to be a producer on this I am not just writing words on a page.”
The choice of shooting on location is really compelling, especially since some locations would have been too easy to visualize on a soundstage. Tell me about shooting in Washington Height and what adds to the experience.
miranda It’s risky on paper, isn’t it? Shooting in New York is expensive. It is difficult to shoot on location. It’s tough shooting in Washington Heights in the summer when we’re all outside a few months out of the year. But the benefit is that you get a million authenticity checks every day because your neighborhood is rolling with folding chairs to see this movie you’re going to make about them. The better your characters are dressed like those on the side, the better your food will be. Whatever you are putting in the frame should be an honest reflection of everything around that is outside the frame. I give so much credit to John for leaning into these corners of the neighborhood and listening and finding that there are additional layers of meaning to Quora and myself, who still live in the neighborhood.
chu We did “champagne” at Abuela’s apartment, which was an actual apartment there. We had no place, we had to hide all the lights, three minutes, singing live. We had a piano on the sidewalk and Anthony and Melissa had to weave in and out of dialogue and music and movement. Our Steadicam guy had to be there without the camera shadow. This forced everyone to be super present.
The concept of the dream, or sueneto, is different for each character. Music seems to say that you can achieve your aspirations without losing what you are about to imbibe. This is a deep notion for immigrants and their children.
miranda It’s so simple and it’s so complicated. You’re talking first generation writers whose parents were born on the island of Puerto Rico. You grow up with “sliding doors” thinking: “What if they stayed? Who would I be if I grew up in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico? The nuance we’ve always struggled with is that , “I can accept the sacrifice of my ancestors. I can accept the responsibility that it bestows upon me and still find my way in the world. Forget your dreams It’s my dreams.” It’s thinking, “I acknowledge the incredible journey you took to stand here and yet my job is to make my way in the world and define home for what it is to me. “
hoodies Sometimes American mass culture focuses too much on individualism at the expense of community care and community experience. But the other side of that coin is not necessarily better. Too much focus on community responsibility can suffocate and make it difficult for you to find your own personal path. The characters in this film are catching up with that balance. Finding the balance of those individual dreams with the community of dreamers together is the path to the plot of “In the Heights”. I relate to this very personally. I’m following the same path to honor my cultural roots, and use those things to honor my heart as well to find new ways to be a person.