By Jack Rico
Ever since the Broadway show ‘In the Heights’ won Best Musical at the 2007 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall – historic moment which I happened to be in the auditorium for – there has been talk of a movie version being developed by Universal Studios for a couple of years now.
First, word came out that ‘In the Heights’ creator, composer, lyricist and star, Lin Manuel Miranda was starring and helping adapt his creation into a film script with the show’s book writer, Quiara Alegria Hudes, writing the script and ‘High School Musical’ helmer Kenny Ortega attached to direct. When I saw Ortega and Wilmer Valderrama chatting at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, I knew this was more than rumor. He was already recruiting and meeting potential cast members. Unfortunately, somewhere along the road, things didn’t go as planned and Lin Manuel, announced via a statement on Deadline.com, that ‘In the Heights: The Movie’ was dead.
According to sources, one of the major reasons for the movie not being greenlit was that Shakira, the ultimate crossover star, couldn’t reach a deal with Universal. She was in talks for the role of Vanessa. It would have been her first motion picture role.
Among the cast members wanting to be part of the star studded cast were Jennifer Lopez for the role of Daniela. That didn’t work out either most likely because of her new found fame with American Idol. Other considerations for her role were Real Housewives star Eva Longoria, Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara and Broadway and TV star from Grey’s Anatomy, Sara Ramirez.
In addition, the cast would have included Rita Moreno, Ruben Blades, and fresh faces like Carlos Peña Jr. from Nickelodeon’s ‘Big Time Rush’, plus Wilmer Valderrama and Gloria Estefan in cameo roles. Speaking of Estefan, iconic record producer Emilio Estefan was having initial conversations to executive produce the film’s soundtrack, a mix of Latin and Hip-Hop songs.
It’s all a shame since dancers were already auditioning, and shooting was slated to begin in August in Washington Heights, New York City with a budget of $37 million dollars. Also, Universal Studios is one of the few studios in Hollywood that has made a commitment to making films with Latino talent, including distributing ‘Savages,’ a cartel movie that will star Benicio del Toro and Salma Hayek, recently announced.
There was no doubt that ‘In the Heights: The Movie’ was going to be one of the most star studded US Hispanic movies in the history of Hollywood, but Lin Manuel Miranda is not giving up on the dream of one day making it happen. He said in a statement, “I have had nothing but a positive experience with Universal Pictures. We weren’t able to make the film version of In The Heights together, but I’m looking forward to working with them in the near future. Moving forward, I’m excited to explore other options to make the In The Heights movie a reality.”
The question now is, what studio will the movie land? My guess is Sony Pictures Classic/Columbia Pictures since they are also very committed to musicals (Burlesque) and Latino talent (Battle: Los Angeles).
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