Tagged as the movie of the summer, Jon M. Chu and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights is guaranteed to infuse your bones with that much-needed sunshine and joy. As the clock ticks down for its release on the big screen, the cast and crew joined together for a global press conference to share a little insight into the latest all-singing, all-dancing joyful and feel-good movie.
Co-written by Miranda and Quiara Hudes 20 years ago, the story of Usnavi and the local Latinx community of Washington Heights first graced the stage both on and off-Broadway but now it’s finally been adapted into a movie. Its writers, whilst feeling satisfied with the outcome of their dreams, are mostly content with the community the film has built.
“We talk a lot about the dream component of the theme of the story, that it’s about dreams and I think one thing I have learned along the way is that the dream is not the finish line, it’s not the goal, it’s the process every step of the way. So I think the most satisfying part is being a part of this community of artists, this crew, and these creators who just held hands and made something together. I am really proud of the communities that In The Heights has created,” said Hudes.
Related: In the Heights Review
Miranda went on to comment that when writing the story while still at College he felt spiritually connected to the character of Nina, a young girl at college but struggles to feel like she actually belongs.
“Yeah, Quiara couldn’t have said it better, I think when we start this journey I was closest, spiritually, to Nina. I started writing it in my sophomore year in college after all, and Nina feels out of place, she feels out of place at home, she feels out of place at school and I felt like that in a lot of places throughout my life and struggling with those questions with Quiara and putting those questions into our characters we created these communities and these families that are continuing to reverberate into the family of the grid you see before you. I think one of the most satisfying moments; it really didn’t feel real to me until I actually got to watch this extraordinary company you see with my original Broadway company.”
Crazy Rich Asian’s helmer Jon M. Chu directs the picture, taking on the challenge to adapt Miranda’s vision come naturally with the story he could personally relate to himself although not coming from the Latin community himself; he still had the same hopes and dreams of the film’s characters.
“To live up to Lin and Quiara’s vision of what they see the world as and that the world isn’t quite there yet and that we had to find the inch we could push it all forward to get there. I think that what we related on most was about dreams; I knew what it felt like even though I am not from Washington Heights, I’m not Latino. I knew what it felt like to be in my bedroom dreaming about being a director one day when that didn’t exist, someone like me didn’t exist in that position. I knew that it felt like to want it so bad, Just like Usnavi and that shot when we are in the Bodega, we were pushing in and the screws are tightening closer and the window right there blocking him off from the world, and the community is there, not feeling sad for him or feeling sorry for him but daring him to break that window, daring him to dream bigger. I knew that that pressure, that’s a combination movie, the cameras moving, of Anthony’s frikking eyes selling everything, Lin’s lyrics and music, Nelson’s production design, the clothes, everything. It’s all making us feel what that feels like, and I think it’s those little moments are what movies do and I think that’s what we all relate to, that’s when we see ourselves in that reflection.”
The story’s leading man comes in the form of Anthony Ramos, having previously starred in ‘A Star is Born’ and ‘Honest Thief’ Ramos had previously worked with Miranda on the run-away hit Hamilton performing dual roles. Ramos’s hope for audiences to take away from this film is that they can relate to the hopes and dreams of its characters.
“[What I hope is] That people walk away from this film, number 1. Being excited about living and being excited about being outside and connected with one another again and in watching each and every one of these characters, not just Usnavi, watching each character dream specifically whatever they are dreaming for and having the tenacity about the way they go about chasing those dreams in spite of whatever thing they are going through. Hopefully, it gives people the hope they can achieve things they set out to dream of for their own lives and themselves.”
While Olga Merediz, who plays the story’s Abuela, the one member of the community that brings everyone together, felt blessed that she could return to play the character that she has played on stage again and stated the whole production was nothing but a joy to be involved with.
“For me, it was a miracle and a dream come true personally since I had done it with Lin off-Broadway and on Broadway. To bring this character to the screen was a dream come true to me and every single day it was a joy working with these amazing, talented people, that you were seeing their beautiful faces, to work again with Lin who I absolutely love and to work with Jon Chu with his miraculous visuals. He just lifted this story up and opened it up and just created movie magic.”
Finally, veteran actor Jimmy Smits after having such a varied career, and finally getting his own star on the Hollywood Walk of fame this past week, was just happy he could tick off starring in a musical from his artistic bucket list.
“It was great to be able to check off that little artistic box on the bucket list. I look at this film and I see the hard work that manifests itself. All of the preparedness, in regards to the boot camp they had to do prior to filming, How prepared Jon was on a visual tip, I remember the first reading we had, he took the storyboard and little snippets of rehearsals. He shared his mind and the possibility of what this film could be how it opened Lin and Quiara’s work up in beautiful ways. I am blown away by the work and the detail of the work in terms of being intimate and small and dramatic then big with these homages to what we know is the golden age of cinema. We can have all that from these people. It’s something that is needed now, as we come out of this pandemic, we need that hope and possibility and we have reflected on so much social stuff as well”.
If there is anywhere you need to see the joy of this film it has to be on the big screen to feel every vibrant vibration. The film will arrive in the UK on the 18th of June.