Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda Recalls Pushback On In The Heights Movie Casting

Lin-Manuel Miranda in Mary Poppins Returns

There are hit Broadway shows, and there's Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda's story about America's founding became a worldwide sensation, and won countless awards. But prior to being in the room where it happened, Miranda brought his first musical In the Heights to the stage. A film adaptation will arrive this summer, directed by Crazy Rich Asians' Jon M. Chu. Although it turns out there was pushback regarding In the Heights' cast.

Like the stage musical before it, In the Heights is populated by an ensemble cast of mostly Latin actors. While the movie has familiar faces like Jimmy Smits, there are also stage performers playing major roles. Lin-Manuel Miranda recently spoke to the difficulty of getting some of these lesser-known names involved, saying:

The sentence that rings in my ears from that era is ‘There’s not a lot of Latino stars who test international.’ ‘Test international’ means ‘We’re not taking a chance on an expensive movie with Latino stars,’ What Jon did so brilliantly with Crazy Rich Asians was he said, ‘These people are stars; you just don’t know who they are yet.’ I think he’s done a similar thing with In the Heights.

The film industry is a tricky one, and there are almost always outside voices trying to influence filmmakers. And when it came to the In the Heights movie, it looks like there was some conversation about the cast. But instead of trying to entice big names for publicity, Jon M. Chu and Lin-Manuel Miranda stuck to their guns and found the perfect ensemble to populate El Barrio.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's comments to Variety peel back the curtain on what it's really like making a big studio movie. In The Heights has a massive budget, so the stakes were high to stick the landing. Said pressure resulted in some pushback on the cast, but luckily John M. Chu's giant success with Crazy Rich Asians might have helped grease the wheel.

In the Heights is arriving in theaters and on HBO Max this summer. You can use this link to sign up (opens in new tab) for the streaming service.

The cast of In The Heights features a number of familiar faces, including Hamilton's Anthony Ramos, singer Marc Anthony, and Orange is the New Black favorite Dascha Polanco. But there's also Broadway royalty in the house, with Olga Merediz reprising her Tony-nominated role as Abuela Claudia. RENT actress Daphne Rubin-Vega also plays a supporting role as Daniela.

Later in that same interview, Jon M. Chu spoke to how his recent success as a filmmaker helped he and Lin-Manuel Miranda cast who they wanted for In the Heights. He also addressed systemic inequity in the industry, saying:

[Crazy Rich Asians] gave me the strength in the room to say: We’re going to have to spend more time and money to find the right actors. You’re not going to find them at an agency. Agencies won’t rep them because there’s no roles for them.

In the Heights was originally meant to hit theaters last summer, but was delayed a full year as a result of the global pandemic. This pivot is why Hamilton ended up being released on Disney+, becoming a massive streaming success in the process. Now Jon M. Chu's movie can hopefully use excitement over Hamilton to help buoy interest to the upcoming movie musical.

It should be interesting to see how In the Heights' success is determined upon its release. The movie will be available straight to homes, which will no doubt affect the box office performance. What's more, it's unclear how theater regulations and numbers will be now that vaccinations are rolling out.

In the Heights will be released June 11th. In the meantime, check out our 2021 release list to plan your next movie experience.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.