Lin-Manuel Miranda is the toast of Broadway and pop-culture following the massive success of his stage musical smash hit Hamilton. But while the hip-hop inflected retelling of the life of one of America’s Founding Fathers is likely the first time many mainstream audiences are hearing his name, Miranda was previously making theatrical waves with his debut project In the Heights – a musical about a Dominican-American bodega owner in Washington Heights.
Originally concieved by Miranda while a student at Wesleyan University, In the Heights tells the story of a Washington Heights bodega owner named Usnavi; one whose diverse (and largely-immigrant) neighborhood is rocked by a chain of events stemming from the discovery that one among them has purchased a winning lottery ticket. A film adaptation was reported as being in development as far back as 2008 under the direction of Kenny Ortega (Hocus Pocus, High School Musical), but it stalled until Hamilton’s massive success made Miranda a hot property in Hollywood.
THR is reporting that the In the Heights musical film adaptation is now actively moving forward again. Furthermore, filmmaker Jon M. Chu in talks to direct the movie and has already met with Miranda to discuss his planned creative approach to the project.
It has not yet been decided whether or not Miranda will reprise his starring role as Usnavi from the original production, given his increasingly crowded plate; not to mention the possibility that Miranda would prefer that a younger actor play Usnavi in the film version of In the Heights, now that he’s in his mid-thirties. Either way, the writer/singer/actor has announced his impending departure from live performances of Hamilton, so he will be moving onto new projects one way or another.
Jon M. Chu most recently directed the magician crime-caper film sequel Now You See Me 2 and has previously worked on such films as the infamous 2015 critical/commercial bomb Jem and the Holograms, as well as the offbeat action sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation prior to that. However, Chu is perhaps better known as the director of dance-heavy musicals like the Step Up franchise installments Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up Revolution, as well as the concert documentaries Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Justin Bieber’s Believe. His work on the latter films better accounts for Chu being approached to bring a celebrated musical such as In the Heights to the big screen.
The Weinstein Company will produce the film version of In the Heights, though the project was originally set up at Universal. The news of the revived feature comes in the wake of the 2016 West End production of the original play picking up an impressive three Lawrence Olivier Awards for Best Supporting Actor, Best Theatre Choreographer and Outstanding Achievement in Music for Miranda.
We’ll bring you more information on In the Heights as it becomes available.