In 2014, the year before “Hamilton” would become a musical phenomenon off-Broadway and then on Broadway, its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was starring in a limited revival of Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical ‘tick, tick… BOOM!” at New York City Center.
In the audience was a producer named Julie Oh. She wrote to tell Miranda she owned the rights to Larson’s musical. Larson died tragically from a tear in his aorta at the age of 35 in 1996, just as previews for his production “Rent” opened onstage in New York.
“I’ve never written a reply so fast in my life,” Miranda said in the exclusive video above from Netflix about the making of the film version of “tick, tick… BOOM!” At the time, he told Oh, “ Your search for a director is over. I’m the only person who can make this movie.”
In the video, Miranda notes that despite the acclaim he has received for his work in theater, “Film is my first love. I wanted to be a film director before I even knew what one was. Then on my 17th birthday, my girlfriend took me to see “Rent.” And the musical just knocked me out. How fresh it was, how contemporary it was, how moving it was. It told me: You are allowed to tell your stories.”
Pointing to Miranda’s defining works thus far in his career, Oh said, “I don’t think we would have ‘In the Heights’ or ‘Hamilton’ if Lin hadn’t sat in the theater and watched ‘Rent’ when he was 17 years old.”
Given that the play and the movie versions of “tick, tick… BOOM!” are about Larson finding his voice as a young artist, the late playwright’s sister Julie, an executive producer on the film, thought Miranda was the ideal choice to direct. “He was influenced by my brother and he knows and understands this world intimately,” she said. “They were facing the same struggles and ups and downs and excitements and feeling of despair. Lin was the absolute perfect person.”
Miranda explained that the struggle to find one’s own voice is precisely what makes him so grateful that this is the film which marks his movie directorial debut.
“If they only ever allow me to make one movie, I’m really proud it’s ‘tick, tick… BOOM!’ because its a story I felt like I knew intimately well from every angle. This story hit me like a ton of bricks and I hope it feels like a message in a bottle to young artists. Saying, ‘This is going to be harder than you think it is and it’s going to be worth it if you love what you do.'”
For more on the movie, including interviews with actors Andrew Garfield (an awards favorite this season for Best Actor), Vanessa Hudgens, and screenwriter Steven Levenson, check out the full video above.
“tick, tick… BOOM!” is streaming now on Netflix