These days, when one thinks of Lin-Manuel Miranda, one thinks immediately to Hamilton. Okay, maybe you think about that amazing rhyme he did on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in support of his homeland of Puerto Rico. For the most part, however, Miranda is known mostly for Hamilton, and for good reason. It’s the work of a man wise beyond his years, much as In the Heights, his last major work, spoke to concerns and concepts that seemed well beyond the college student that Miranda was when he wrote the beloved musical. And though there’s still no word on when Hamilton might make the leap to the big screen, a movie musical based on In the Heights has been in the works for some time now with director Jon M. Chu possibly at the helm of the adaptation.
Chu’s striking stylistic acumen has been used to give some much-needed dazzle to the Now You See Me franchise, and he’s already set to direct Now You See Me 3. During an interview with our very own Christina Radish for the Blu-ray release of Now You See Me 2, however, he took time to talk about the challenge of adapting the play for the big screen and making the musical reflective of the Miranda of today rather than the college student who originally wrote it. He also talked about why he thinks the immigrant story of In the Heights is more important than ever. Here’s what he had to say:
You’ve met with Lin-Manuel Miranda about making the In The Heights movie, right?
Is that going to happen? And what is it about that show that appeals to you and made you want to get involved?
CHU: We’ve been working on it. I love the show. I think the immigrant story is more important than ever, especially now when the immigrant story is under attack. I come from a family of immigrants. That idea of that weight on your shoulders from your family and what they are giving to you, and the sacrifices they made to give you the opportunities that you have. My parents were the first generation that came here to give everything to us kids. I’m the youngest of five. And then, I was like, “I’m going to go into movies!” And they were like, “Okay!” And it worked. It’s so weird to be in the most American business in the world and not have resistance to that because other people sacrificed themselves for me. All of that is so important, and the story moved me in that way. So, to be able to tell that in a movie, I’m very excited about. We’re figuring out all the details of the deal, so I can’t necessarily say that I’m on it, but we have been working together for a long time.
It’s not hard to see why Chu would think this time is when the immigrant story needs more defending and expression than ever, what with the current Republican candidate insisting we need to build a wall across Mexico. He clearly has personal weight in the project and a bond with Miranda, and one of the biggest questions is whether or not Miranda will appear in the film version of In the Heights. Chu took time to weigh in on this question as well. Here’s what he had to say:
Lin-Manuel Miranda has said that he’s not sure if he wants to be in the film, or if somebody else should do it. Are you personally rooting for him to be the one to step in and do it?
CHU: It’s interesting. He’s evolved. He’s Hamilton. This work, he wrote in college. The challenge that we have been talking a lot about is that it has to be elevated to a level of who he is now. So, we’ll see what his involvement is, at that point. Right now, we’re working on the creative on-the-ground stuff for how we turn a Broadway show that he did in college to elevate it and give it reason to be a movie. Not just doing the movie version, but finding a reason it has to be made as a movie. We’re figuring out all of those things.
Some musicals turned movies have been great, and some have really not been great.
CHU: Yes, and I’ve watched those movies and been frustrated, and I’ve been excited when it works really well. It’s all scary, especially with Lin. You want to live up to Lin. But, it’s been great. I’m working with Quiara [Alegría Hudes], who wrote the original book for the Broadway show, and we’re working it out.
Could he possibly be talking about the latest, dreadful adaptation of Les Miserables or Chris Columbus‘ toxic adaptation of Rent? Who knows? What is clear is that Chu is taking the task seriously and wants to have a good reason to have Miranda in the movie beyond simple star-wattage. He wants to add a personal layer beyond even the immigrant experience, a feeling of looking back at a time in one’s life and being able to see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. It’s good to know that Chu is considering this while taking on arguably one of the most anticipated big-studio productions currently in the works beyond the world of Marvel, DC, and the sprawl of other franchises.