The movie adaptation of Miranda’s first musical has had a troublesome journey thus far.
We don’t tend to take as much notice of films that jump ship from studio to studio, because anything goes during the development process. However, some films have a long and colorful history of fits and starts; some that don’t deserve to be put through the wringer that much. This sadly happened to In the Heights, the movie musical adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s award-winning Broadway hit.
The project’s long and arduous journey to the big screen is finally coming to a fulfilling conclusion. Variety has reported that Warner Bros. has won a heated bidding war against a number of other studios for the rights to produce In the Heights movie. This news comes a month after Miranda and In the Heights book writer Quiara Alegría Hudes officially extricated the film rights from The Weinstein Company amidst its bankruptcy.
For the longest time, In the Heights just felt like the unluckiest movie, a dark cloud hanging over Miranda’s multitude of success elsewhere despite being the property that kickstarted his career 10 years ago. Most of us became familiar with Miranda after witnessing the greatness of his 2015 smash Broadway production, Hamilton. His deliciously modern take on one of America’s Founding Fathers demonstrated his ability to write engaging and witty stage material about a particularly rigid time in history.
Hamilton opened many doors for Miranda, allowing him to land the coveted job of writing music for a Disney animated film — Moana, to be exact — and eventually become an Oscar-nominated composer. He’s now working on a couple of television series and is due to star in the Mary Poppins sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, in a notable supporting role.
Before all of that was a story about family and legacy that Miranda began drafting in 1999 when he was still attending Wesleyan University. Set in the largely Hispanic-American neighborhood of Washington Heights and starring a mostly Latinx cast, In the Heights follows multiple characters going about their everyday lives. They work to pay their rent, chase their dreams, and celebrate with their heritage. The musical was praised upon opening on Broadway in 2008 (with Miranda in one of the lead roles) and took home multiple coveted stage awards, including the Tony for Best Musical.
The immense success of In the Heights obviously got Hollywood buzzing about its adaptation potential, and the musical’s film rights were snapped up by Universal Pictures soon enough. That first iteration of the adaptation was scheduled for a 2011 release with High School Musical director Kenny Ortega at the helm and Miranda tapped to star in the role that he had originated onstage. Unfortunately, the film was canceled. Despite this, Miranda did confirm in 2012 that talks about reviving In the Heights had resumed, although details were few and far between at the time.
Several years later, Hamilton reignited public awareness of Miranda’s work, and in May 2016, In the Heights seemingly hit the jackpot when The Weinstein Company – at the time a reputable mini-major studio – acquired the film rights for the adaptation. The production was now back on track with Miranda still due to play a heavy role behind the scenes, although he was no longer set to appear as the musical’s protagonist. Jon M. Chu (whose adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians is due out this year) was set to direct the feature. Jay-Z signed on to be a producer, and the film had a late spring start date. In the Heights was on the up and up.
But we all know what happened next: the floodgates opened on the Harvey Weinstein assault allegations and everything on TWC’s slate fell into pandemonium. In response to the damning accusations, Miranda and Hudes announced their intention to have the rights to their musical reverted in October 2017. Months later in April 2018, confirmation that In the Heights was back with its creators finally came. The Hollywood Reporter further reported on a bidding discrepancy in early May that Miranda himself objected to.
Nevertheless, Warner Bros. has now sealed the deal to take on In the Heights, and we can finally get really excited about the potential that this movie musical has. In true Miranda form, In the Heights is both timeless and timely, depicting a universally relatable narrative despite the musical’s singular neighborhood setting. The adaptation would also be fantastic for Latinx representation, providing ample opportunities for newcomers to break out in starring roles that don’t indulge in stereotypes.
Chu is still attached to direct In The Heights and Hudes will pen the film’s screenplay. Considering Hudes’s connection to the source material and the fact that Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians looks so damn good, I’m pumped about this. Furthermore, as Miranda’s star continues to rise, the world remains optimistic that his first brainchild is finally on its way to getting the adaptation it deserves.