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).
‘In the Heights’ is no longer just a Broadway show, but a reference to where The Tony Awards will be next year. As a passionate fan and advocate of Broadway and the arts for the Hispanic community, I’m exhilirated and yes, shocked as well, to hear that The Tony Awards, Broadway’s most prestigious and distinguished award show, is leaving Radio City Music Hall and moving to Washington Heights for 2011. Wow! I’m still pinching myself!
According to Michael Reidel of the New York Post, who broke the story, this is absolutely true. If so, this an exciting time for the Broadway community and the Hispanic one. Why? Because both groups need each other especially now when diversity is a key issue for every business, including The Great White Way. I think next year they should do it at The Apollo and expose their great event to the African American residents of Harlem. Soon we might be seeing them change their nickname to The Great Melting Pot of Broadway, who knows.
Reidel’s report says that the Tony’s new home will be The United Palace on 175th street on Broadway (that’s Washington Heights). Even though the area is historically a Caucasian neighborhood, culturally today, it is home to the largest population of Dominicans outside of the Dominican Republic. Funny enough, or just coincidence, Reidel never mentions the obvious relevance of the matter.
Broadway in Latino territory. Even though the visuals of these two are strange, we do live in the Obama world and Broadway seems to be making an effort to reach out and make new friends. I’ll tell you this much, I am going to be one of the first ones on line to this historic event and I am also sure that hundreds of Latino spectators will also be paying to see The Tony’s because it is in their backyard. A win win situation. Viva Broadway!(There’s a slogan they should go with!)
According to Page Six today, Lopez met with producer Meryl Poster, who as we understand, will be producing the film version of ‘In the Heights’, a Latino musical about the joys, heartbreaks and bonds of a Latino community struggling to redefine home.
The question is can her ‘talents’ handle Broadway? The truth is her singing voice is frail, her speaking voice is soft and she’s a mediocre actress at best, so how do you explain her success? Jennifer Lopez is an extremely charming woman on camera, with reporters and fans alike. The phenomenon is called compensation. People who are average at a specific task have to work harder at achieving their dreams and goals through other means. She does this amazingly well!
An artist in order to be successful needs to understand and be aware of their strengths and limitations. Lopez, who has made great decisions throughout her career, has to recognize her shortcomings, and I’m assuming she realizes that the demands of being on Broadway is too much for her voice day in and day out. A limited run on 2008’s Best Musical ‘In the Heights’ wouldn’t be appalling, but she’ll fully expose her artistic weaknesses if she does any time longer than a month.
Here’s the Page Six article: “COULD Jennifer Lopez be trying to restart her acting career by hitting Broadway? Insiders say Lopez is interested in starring in “In the Heights,” the musical about Washington Heights. She went to the show twice last week and accompanied the producer, Meryl Poster, to dinner Friday evening at Nobu 57, where they discussed roles. Another insider said Lopez might be more interested in a movie version, as Broadway shows are exhausting and time consuming, and Poster also produced the screen version of “Chicago.” A rep for Lopez said, “She loves the play but is not Broadway bound.”
A cinematic hip-hop Latino musical for Lopez would be a sage choice, but I’m not sure at her age (39 at the time of this article), she can play any of the young leads.
We’ll have to see what exchange of ideas were discussed at this dinner meeting. Nevertheless, this charming woman still has a lot to offer the entertainment world and all will patiently await her next move.
Flush from the global returns of “Mamma Mia!,” Universal Pictures is tuning up another stage musical transformation. The studio has acquired rights to turn the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “In the Heights” into a feature.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the musical, wrote the lyrics and music and has played the starring role through its Off Broadway and Broadway runs, is expected to reprise his role in the film. Miranda will produce with Meryl Poster.
Quiara Alegria Hudes, who wrote the book for the show, will pen the screen adaptation.
The tuner takes place over three days in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, where a bodega owner (played by Manuel) inherits his late grandmother’s lottery winnings and plans to shutter his store and retire on a beach in the Dominican Republic. Trying to say farewell to the characters who live on the block, he realizes that his neighbors are his real family, and he’s torn about leaving.
Original Broadway producers Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller and Jill Furman will be executive producers of the film.
“In the Heights” launched Off Broadway in early 2007 and moved to Broadway, where it won four Tonys, including musical.
“It is a timeless Everyman story that has a universal appeal,” said Poster who, as an executive at Miramax Films, supervised and exec produced “Chicago.” “In the Heights” is the first feature she has set up under her first-look deal for TV and movie projects with NBC Universal.
U, which has watched “Mamma Mia!” become the highest-grossing musical in history with $558.8 million worldwide, now has another tuner on the boards. The studio and producer Marc Platt are also in the nascent stages of turning the Broadway hit “Wicked” into a feature.