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How Lin-Manuel Miranda Rode His ‘Hamilton’ Star from Broadway to Hollywood

The Puerto Rican New Yorker has graciously ridden his stardom, sharing the love with his "Hamilton" colleagues. After the Tony awards, what's next?

Hamilton

“Hamilton”

The last time Lin-Manuel Miranda attended the Tony Awards, he was nervous because “In the Heights” needed to win in order to lure audiences. It won best new musical.

That’s not a problem for his ticket-scalpers’ delight, “Hamilton,” his second Broadway musical. He stars in the production, wrote the book, music, and lyrics, and it scored a record-breaking 16 nominations. It swept the Tonys Sunday night with 11 awards including best new musical, and could eventually earn over $1 billion worldwide, according to The New York Times.

“Hamilton” also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and a Grammy Award for best musical theater album. Because Miranda won an Emmy for writing Neil Patrick Harris’s closing rap at the 2014 Tonys, all he needs is an Oscar to become a member of the EGOT club.

That’s not an impossibility, as Miranda’s moving his star to Hollywood—more specifically, Disney. J.J. Abrams hired him to compose some songs for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” while Disney Animation hired him to write the score for 2016 animated South Island feature “Moana.” He’s also on board Disney’s upcoming live-action movie “Mary Poppins Returns” (Dec. 25, 2018), a sequel to the ’60s classic starring Julie Andrews.

The surprise: he’s not writing songs for the Rob Marshall musical (that’s Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the team behind “Hairspray”), but will star in it, opposite Emily Blunt as Poppins. She revisits grown-up Jane and Michael Banks, living in Depression-era London, and introduces Michael’s three children to her magical skills—and lamplighter Jack (Miranda).

And that’s not all. Harvey Weinstein, the movie and theater mogul (“Chicago,” “Finding Neverland,” “Singin’ in the Rain”) and producer Meryl Poster had the sense to pursue the movie rights for “In the Heights,” which had gone to Universal, where Tony Ortega was supposed to direct a $37 million movie set in Washington Heights. Weinstein grabbed the project in turnaround in 2011.

Now Jon M. Chu, director of the last two “Step Up” musicals and “Now You See Me 2,” is in talks to direct a $15-million project for producers Scott Sanders, Mara Jacobs, and Miranda, who starred in the original as a man who inherits money and plans to shutter his bodega and retire to the Dominican Republic. (No word on whether he’ll return in the role.) Original stage book writer Quiara Alegria Hudes is writing the screenplay.

“As a kid from Queens, I’ve always loved bringing New York stories to film,” Weinstein said. “‘In the Heights’ and Lin-Manuel brought Washington Heights to Broadway back in 2008 and in the process turned the theater world on its head.  The movie musicals of the 1950s were incredible, but ‘In The Heights’ will revolutionize what movie audiences expect from the genre.“
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And of course, a film version of “Hamilton” is also in the works.

It’s unusual for one person to be so gifted in so many areas—Miranda can write lyrics and music as well as act, and wrote the role of Hamilton for himself to play. (“In the Heights” was also designed to provide a rare juicy lead role for a Puerto-Rican American.) This means that the hit show—which is gearing up for a world tour, including a West End staging produced by Cameron Mackintosh in which Miranda will star —has made him more than $6 million from the Broadway show alone, not only from his salary (which ends when he leaves the show this July) but also from authorship royalties and profits.

Gross retail sales on the music — cast album (selling over 428,000 copies domestically, per Nielsen), track downloads (over 212,000), and on-demand streams (past 365 million)— are about $11 million, with a new recording of “Hamilton” songs in the works with Roots’ drummer Questlove, Busta Rhymes, Ben Folds, Regina Spektor, and Chance the Rapper.

And Miranda has shown a flair for catching the spotlight. The opening number for “Hamilton” took him a year to write, but he impulsively decided to perform it when he was invited to perform at a poetry jam at the White House in November 2009. It was a gamble, but it took off as a viral video and his directing partner from Wesleyan, Thomas Kail, encouraged him to keep writing songs —first for a songbook (working with orchestrator Alex Lacamoire) and eventually, for a show. The songs came slowly, so much so that Kail turned up the pressure to get Miranda to speed up his output, he told Charlie Rose, who has been all over the Miranda phenomenon from the start, hosting multiple segments for “60 Minutes.”

Miranda and Kail launched the show at the Public Theatre, where it sold out; once it transferred to Broadway, tickets have continued to be impossible to obtain. Miranda has become a celebrity, posing for Annie Leibovitz in Vogue and for cover shoots in Time and Rolling Stone, and accepting invitations to talk shows such as “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “Charlie Rose,” and “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” where he memorably joined fellow Tony nominees for carpool karaoke singing hits from “Rent” and “Les Mis.”

Miranda revisited Obama at the White House, performing the show with the cast there and promoting his fellow-cast members on Twitter (he has over 490K followers) and via public appearances. “This is definitely the room where it happened,” said a proud Obama at the White House. Miranda is adept at social media, constantly sharing photos and moments from his life, waxing philosophical about creativity, generously using his window in the spotlight to spread the love around the rest of the “Hamilton” crew, some of whom will also get pieces of the financial action.

The net result: many of us have come to not only respect and adore the show Miranda helped to create, but the man himself. I am not the only one who cannot wait to see what he does next.  “What does it feel like to be the next creative idea in @Lin-Manuel’s head? #nopressure,” tweeted Mark Duplass.

It may take a while. But clearly, Miranda is not throwing away his shot.

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