In The Heights (2021)

Jake Lipson

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Title: In The Heights

Genre: Drama, Music

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Gregory Diaz IV, Dascha Polanco, Marc Anthony, Ariana Greenblatt, Noah Catala, Doreen Montalvo, Christopher Jackson, Patrick Page, Beorht Ayisi

Release: 2021-06-18

Plot: A feature version of the Broadway musical, in which a bodega owner has mixed feelings about closing his store and retiring to the Dominican Republic after inheriting his grandmother's fortune.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes' musical is being shopped around town, and it looks like everyone wants to make it now:

http://deadline.com/2018/05/lin-man...ts-jon-m-chu-quiara-alegria-hudes-1202382887/

This is a really happy turn for this show. Universal bought the rights some years ago but put it in turnaround, and then it landed at The Weinstein Company, but was extracted from there right before the bankruptcy.

For Lin and Quiara to be in a position where they're going to receive multiple offers and will essentially get to choose who gets to make it is pretty incredible.

John M. Chu is directing and has been attached to it since its days at Universal, I think. I haven't seen any of his previous work, but since Lin and Quiara made that choice, I'm good with it.

I think the show is phenomenal and have wanted a movie made for a while, so I'm glad it finally seems to be coming together.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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I'm surprised it's taken this long, to be honest. I figure once Hamilton became a cultural phenomenon, someone would have snapped up the film rights to this. The TWC of it all explains why we haven't had movement on this earlier.

It'd be great if they shoot the exteriors on location in Washington Heights. Maybe just recreate the couple blocks surrounding the bodega on the backlot.
 
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Jake Lipson

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I'm just going to throw this out there right now. It's not official or anything but I think they should go get Rita Moreno to play Abuela Claudia.

I'm surprised it's taken this long, to be honest. I figure once Hamilton became a cultural phenomenon, someone would have snapped up the film rights to this.
Yeah, that's when Harvey bought it. I'm kind of surprised he didn't move to get it into production earlier, but it's a good thing in hindsight, since if he had it would remain tangled up in that mess.

It'd be great if they shoot the exteriors on location in Washington Heights.
I would be surprised if this was not the plan for at last some of it. Especially since Lin-Manuel Miranda still lives there, it should be pretty easy to do with his input.

Unfortunately, he seems a little too old now for Usnavi, but I fully expect him to be involved in the process, and also think he'll probably cameo in another role -- maybe the Piragua Guy?
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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He seems a little too old now for Usnavi, but I would fully expect him to cameo in another role -- maybe the Piragua Guy?
I would bet on Vanessa Hudgens as Vanessa. She played the role in last month's Kennedy Center concert performances, and she was the standout in Thomas Kail's live television production of Grease. They'll also probably want at least a few names that non-theatergoers will have heard of.
 
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Jake Lipson

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They'll also probably want at least a few names that non-theatergoers will have heard of.
Yeah. I would be fine with Hudgens for that role. I didn't get to see the Kennedy Center production but am sure she was terrific. Corben Bleu also replaced Lin as Usnavi in the Broadway run, but that was maybe 8 or 9 years ago at this point, so if Lin is too old, he might be also. Or maybe not.

Besides her obvious talent, that's another reason why Rita Moreno would work nicely for Claudia. They'll get promotional mileage out of her doing a musical again so long after West Side Story, in the same way that Hairspray did from John Travolta after Grease.
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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Jon M. Chu is directing and screenwriter Quiara Alegria Hudes is adapting it for the screen. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Scott Sanders, and Mara Jacobs are producing.

I'm really surprised Thomas Kail isn't directing. With Chu, the choreography is sure to be on point but I don't know about the rest of it. The Step Up movies weren't exactly showcases of great acting.
 
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Jake Lipson

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I'm really surprised Thomas Kail isn't directing.
Thomas Kail is a terrific theatre director, and he did a great job guiding this show on stage, but I fully support him not doing the film transfer because it should be rethought for film with fresh eyes, and he doesn't have a lot of film experience (and none for the big screen actually, just Grease Live, a TV movie and various TV episodes.) https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2371802/?ref_=nv_sr_2.

The two recent movie musicals that were directed by their stage directors -- The Producers and Mamma Mia! -- both suffer from terrible direction because they didn't understand how to change it for the film medium. In the Heights needs someone who understands the language of film to figure out how to do it in a new way for the screen.

Jon M. Chu would probably not have been my first choice either, but Lin and Quiara chose him some time ago (he was also attached to it when it was at TWC, and maybe earlier, and came already attached when studios bid on the project) so I'm confident in their approval of his vision for the project. I don't think they would have picked him if they didn't think he was the right person, so I'm inclined to trust their judgment (at least until we see the finished product.)

I've also heard good things about his upcoming film Crazy Rich Asians, which is also a WB release, so they'll be continuing with him on this film.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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It's probably unlikely at this point, but Chu handled the 3D cameras excellently in the 3D installments of Step Up that he worked on - I'd love to see him shoot this in 3D as well.
 

Jake Lipson

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It's probably unlikely at this point
Yeah, I'm not sure the studio would view this as the type of film that would draw large audiences in 3D. When was the last time a non-action/sci-fi/comic book/effects spectacle film was in 3D? (This is a serious question.) Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is the first thing to come to mind that doesn't fit that mold, and it of course made $1.7 million total.

It will be interesting to see how Warner Bros. handles this. I get why they would want the property, but their recent track record with musicals isn't particularly strong box-office-wise. Their most recent three musical releases were Jersey Boys (2014, $47 million) -- more of a musical biopic than a musical, but it counts because it's adapted from the stage musical; Rock of Ages (2012, $38 million); and The Phantom of the Opera (2004, $51 million.) All of these were considered bombs. Hopefully they're able to market In the Heights more successfully and people will see it.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Thomas Kail is a terrific theatre director, and he did a great job guiding this show on stage, but I fully support him not doing the film transfer because it should be rethought for film with fresh eyes, and he doesn't have a lot of film experience (and none for the big screen actually, just Grease Live, a TV movie and various TV episodes.) https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2371802/?ref_=nv_sr_2.

The two recent movie musicals that were directed by their stage directors -- The Producers and Mamma Mia! -- both suffer from terrible direction because they didn't understand how to change it for the film medium. In the Heights needs someone who understands the language of film to figure out how to do it in a new way for the screen.
In the modern age of the live television musical, I feel like only Kail's Grease Live! took advantage of the medium. That made me really excited to take the leap into cinema. Susan Stroman is a giant of the theater, but she's never directed anything like Grease Live! -- and The Producers is her only screen credit. I haven't seen Mamma Mia! so I can't comment on that; I will say that the trailers didn't look very stage-y.
 
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Jake Lipson

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In the modern age of the live television musical, I feel like only Kail's Grease Live! took advantage of the medium.
Your point is well taken.

I don't know if Thomas Kali has ever been in consideration for the In the Heights movie job or not. I don't know if he would be interested in doing it or not.

But it has been Jon Chu's job for a while, and I'm pretty sure that Lin and Quiara made that choice. He came attached to it when they had the rights auction which WB won, so the winning studio wouldn't have been able to get the movie without getting him too. So, since Lin and Quiara chose him, I'm good with that choice.
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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Anthony Ramos is Usnavi.
I figured there was a good chance he'd get the role, unless the studio was looking for a name actor. He played the role in the Kennedy Center concert performance last year, and played Sonny in a Utah regional production back in 2012.

Probably the success of A Star is Born gave Warner Bros. the confidence to pull the trigger on his casting. He made the most of his limited screen time in that movie.
 

Jake Lipson

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They're doing what Lin-Manuel Miranda is calling a worldwide casting search for other roles:

https://www.castittalent.com/In_The_Heights_Movie

It's also worth noting that the movie can now be promoted as "From the director of Crazy Rich Asians," which may help catch people's attention.
 
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Jake Lipson

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Jake Lipson

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Well, crap.

A representative for Moreno tells Playbill she is not attached to the film.

http://www.playbill.com/article/rit...o-in-the-heights-film-despite-earlier-reports

Deadline says she is "in talks." I hope this is a case of The Hollywood Reporter simply breaking the story before all the deal points on her contract are worked out, and that she will end up doing it. I can't think of anyone more suited to do this role on screen.

But we'll see.

Edit; Deadline now says:

Deadline said:
UPDATE, MONDAY 9PM after 4:26PM post: There was buzz today that Rita Moreno was joining Jon M. Chu’s feature take of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical In the Heights. What actually occurred we hear is that the production expressed interest in the West Side Story Oscar winner for the role of Abuela Claudia, but talks did not commence. We’ll let you know if that changes. At this point, Moreno is not joining In The Heights.
https://deadline.com/2018/11/rita-m...uel-miranda-jon-m-chu-warner-bros-1202496511/
 
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Jake Lipson

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On a different note, I was listening to the cast album earlier tonight and the Donald Trump reference in 96,000 caught my attention.

I don't want to make this thread political in any way. However, I think it is fair to say that given Trump's presidency, the reference to him would play differently in terms of audience response in June 2020 (when he will still be in office) than it did in 2008 (when the show premiered.)

For those who don't know, when discussing what they would do if they won the $96,000 lottery, Benny says:

Benny said:
I'll be a businessman, richer than Nina's daddy.
Donald Trump and I on the links, and he's my caddy!"
I have seen the show produced since Trump was elected, and the lyric has not been changed. But for the movie, I wonder if it might take audiences out of the story a bit. I would not be surprised if Lin decided to modify that lyric and swap in the name of some other famous businessman who is not the president at the time of the film's release. The lyric would make sense if they kept it, but it might be better to take it out.
 
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