Lin-Manuel Miranda wants to keep directing movies, but don’t look for him to mount any large-scale spectacles.
“My responsibility as a filmmaker — and I really hope to make more movies — is to make the weird little musicals that no one else can get made,” he told Rosie Perez during an appearance Tuesday at the Tribeca Festival. His 2021 debut as a director, tick … tick … BOOM!, was “a really nice size for me,” the Hamilton creator said. “I really love working with actors. I really love unlocking musical storytelling, and that’s the fun part.”
Miranda maintained he “would never” attempt something as lavish as Wicked, the forthcoming Universal adaptation of the long-running Broadway show. Jon M. Chu, a friend as well as the director of the film adaptation of Miranda’s In The Heights, “is going to do something amazing, and I can’t wait to see it,” he said. “I want to direct funky little musicals that no one else would make as a movie.”
The hour-long entry in the Tribeca fest’s Storytellers series managed not to touch on any current events, instead zeroing in on craft and Miranda’s upbringing and influences. The WGA strike did not come up as a topic. Neither did Miranda’s appearance at last Sunday’s Tony Awards, even though they were held in his neighborhood’s United Palace, which he and his family helped restore.
While Perez mostly asked the questions, the tables were turned briefly as the actress described her roots as a choreographer as well as an amusing backstage encounter between LL Cool J and Keenan Ivory Wayans. The moment came as she was getting set to leave LL Cool J’s tour and start working on Wayans’ pioneering Fox series In Living Color, her show business breakthrough.
The audience remained rapt as Perez elicited alternately playful and thoughtful responses from Miranda, including when she asked him what he wants to do next. He cited the significant impact of the November 2021 death at age 91 of Stephen Sondheim, noting that the Broadway legend is “all over tick … tick … BOOM!” both in terms of inspiration and also as a character played by Bradley Whitford. Miranda also included the voice of Sondheim leaving a voicemail for Jonathan Larson, the late musical creator portrayed by Andrew Garfield.
After Sondheim’s passing, Miranda recalled “this loud, clear directive either from God or from Sondheim: ‘Get back to the piano. Get back to the writing.’ …The goal is to be able to look back and say, ‘I made this and I made this and I made this.’ I want to just get as much that’s in me out of me as possible. … Sondheim was in his 90s and it still doesn’t feel like enough time.”
Acting in films, which Miranda did in Mary Poppins Returns and In The Heights, enabled him to learn more of the nitty-gritty of production, but performing isn’t likely to be a focus in the near term, he said.
Collaborating motivates Miranda, he said, as opposed to anything requiring a hermit-like existence. “Letting more folks into the room when you’re still cooking a movie just makes for more ideas in the pot. I can’t imagine writing something and directing it,” Miranda said. “I’ll never write a memoir. I’ll never write a book. I’d feel alone a lot of the time. … Writing is tough because you have to be alone. You have to marinate and daydream and take long walks. But if you’re writing a musical, you get to bring it in to someone else.”