A lot has changed since “In the Heights” first debuted on Broadway in 2008. “Hamilton” heavyweight Lin-Manuel Miranda has been trying to mount a movie version of the musical set in the largely Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights since Barack Obama was elected president. That dream is finally becoming a reality, with the film at last arriving in theaters from Warner Bros. and on HBO Max on June 11 after several a pandemic setback.
But, as revealed in a new deep dive into the movie in Variety, some elements from the original, Tony-scoring musical had to be refurbished to bring it to the screen in a 2021 world. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book for the musical as well as the screenplay for the movie, not only had to update the storylines to have more timely resonance with DACA — they also had to cut Trump’s name from the lyrics of the song “96,000.”
In the song, the block discovers that the bodega owned by Usnavi (played by “Hamilton” star Anthony Ramos in the film) has sold a winning lottery ticket, and the character Benny (played in the film by Corey Hawkins) dreams about what he might do with the big winnings.
“I’ll be a businessman richer than Nina’s daddy; Donald Trump and I on the links, and he’s my caddie!” the lyrics in the Broadway version read. In the movie, however, Tiger Woods is swapped in for Trump.
“When I wrote it,” Miranda told Variety, “he was an avatar for the Monopoly man. He was just, like, a famous rich person. Then when time moves on and he becomes the stain on American democracy, you change the lyric. Time made a fool of that lyric, and so we changed it.”
The film’s direct Jon M. Chu, previously best known for “Crazy Rich Asians,” promised Variety that the movie will be a “vaccine for your soul.”
He said, “When you are trying to make stories that change what we’ve seen before, you can get caught in the small things. But you try to do as much as you can, to be as truthful as you can. And the rest, other people are going to fill. We got to crack it open a little bit.”