Although Lin-Manuel Miranda credits Rent creator Jonathan Larson as one of his main inspirations, he isn’t planning on directing another live-action adaptation of the iconic rock musical anytime soon.
Miranda recently made his directorial debut with Netflix’s Tick, Tick… BOOM!, based on the semi-autobiographical musical of the same name by Larson.
The film, which has received acclaim, takes place in 1990 and follows the late theatre composer (played by Andrew Garfield) as he juggles work at the Moondance Diner in Soho while preparing for a workshop of his musical Superbia.
Tick, Tick… BOOM! also examines how the HIV/AIDS epidemic started to ravage the gay community in New York and how queer talent weren’t – and still aren’t – afforded the same opportunities in the industry as their heterosexual counterparts.
Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Vanessa Hudgens, Joshua Henry, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Judith Light, Mj Rodriguez, Ben Levi Ross, Bradley Whitford and Laura Benati round out the incredible supporting cast.
Ahead of the film’s release, we spoke with Miranda about why it was important for him to make his directorial debut with Tick, Tick… BOOM! and Larson’s impact on his artistry.
“I saw Rent for my 17th birthday from the last row of the mezzanine of the Nederlander Theatre, and I had never seen such diversity on stage,” Miranda tells GAY TIMES. “I had never seen queer love stories at the centre of a musical.
“I had never seen a musical that felt so homemade and was about the things that I cared about. It was about surviving as an artist in New York City, which was a thing I desperately wanted to do when I grew up but felt incredibly far away. I always loved musicals but I always felt that some other really smart people wrote them.”
Miranda is best known for creating and starring in the Broadway musicals In The Heights and Hamilton. Throughout his career, Miranda has received a Pulitzer Prize, two Laurence Olivier Awards, three Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards and two Emmy Awards.
On how Rent inspired one of his most iconic works, Miranda adds: “I don’t think its an accident that you can draw a direct line between that happening on my 17th birthday and me beginning to write In The Heights on my 19th birthday, writing a love letter about my community a little more uptown in Washington Heights.
“It literally gave me the audacity and the gumption to be able to write a musical some day.”
Rent, loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera La Bohème, depicts the lives of several young artists as they struggle with sexuality, identity, drugs and paying their runt, all under the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Lower Manhattan’s East Village from 1989 to 1990.
It has since been recognised as one of the best LGBTQ+ musicals in history and is one of the longest-running shows on Broadway. A motion picture adaptation was released in 2005 with most of the original cast members, but received mixed reviews and flopped at the box office.
When we ask Miranda if he plans to continue honouring Larson’s work with another on-screen adaptation of Rent, he responds: “No. I think Rent has had every incarnation it could possibly have and I don’t know what I could add to its incredible legacy.
“The joy was in discovering Tick, Tick… BOOM!, which I think feels even more personal, is it’s really a portrait of the artist as a young man and it’s a self-portrait at that. The joy was taking the off-Broadway version, taking the many drafts Jonathan wrote and working with Steven Levinson to make our own film version of the movie.
“Because Jonathan passed away so young, we have a finite amount of Jonathan Larson music but I’m also really proud that this says ‘score by Jonathan Larson’ in the closing credits. We went down to Library of Congress, we listened to all his unheard stuff.
“There’s a point where they’re in the car and you hear a news jingle, that’s literally a CNN rejected jingle that Jonathan Larson wrote in a file we found called ‘Jingles’, where there’s an Irish Spring jingle, a Lucky Charms jingle, a CNN jingle. So, we really made it our mission to put as much of Jonathan Larson’s music out into the world as possible.”
Tick, Tick… Boom! is now available to stream on Netflix.