'In the Heights': Lin-Manuel Miranda's Musical That Pre-Dates 'Hamilton'

After a year-long delay, In The Heights is finally out in cinemas and HBO Max, but its journey to the big screen has actually been over a decade in the making.

This is the latest musical outing from Lin-Manuel Miranda after his success writing and starring in Hamilton, as well as producing music for Disney's Moana and appearing in Mary Poppins Returns.

Many believe that Hamilton was Miranda's first taste of success but it's actually this latest film that started him on the road to musical international stardom.

When did Lin-Manuel Miranda write In The Heights?

The stage version of In The Heights was first released in 2005 in Waterford, Connecticut, but Miranda claims he started writing the script for the musical during his sophomore year of college.

In his self-penned article for Broadway Buzz called "Scaling The Heights," Miranda wrote: "In the winter of 1999, I applied to put up a new show in the student-run '92 Theater. At the time, I had one song and a title: In the Heights. I barely slept, I barely ate; I just wrote.

"I put in all the things I'd always wanted to see onstage: propulsive freestyle rap scenes outside of bodegas, salsa numbers that also revealed character and story. I tried to write the kind of show I'd want to be in," he said.

I had one song and a title: In the Heights. I barely slept, I barely ate; I just wrote.
Lin-Manuel Miranda on writing In The Heights in 1999

Eventually, after a few additions, tweaks and rewrites, in 2007 In The Heights hit Broadway. It was a huge success for the debuting writer, being nominated for 13 Tony Awards, winning four including Best Musical and Best Original Score for Miranda. It also bagged Miranda his first Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. At this stage in his career Miranda was just 28 years old.

Miranda initially led the cast of In The Heights, playing the role of Usnavi de la Vega from 2007 to 2009. It was around this time that he read Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, which eventually inspired Miranda to write the script and music for what would become Hamilton.

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In The Heights' journey from Broadway to cinema

In The Heights was supposed to be a movie long before now. Universal Pictures announced on November 7, 2008, that they planned to adapt the musical into a feature film for release in 2011.

The production stalled several times. Variety alleged that Universal wanted a bankable Latino star for the movie, reportedly Jennifer Lopez or Shakira. With no big names and a constant change of director, the studio ultimately dropped the project in 2011.

After the success of Hamilton, the In The Heights movie idea was revived in 2016, this time by Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Company, according to The Hollywood Reporter. After the numerous sexual assault allegations were put forward against Weinstein, his producer credit was removed and Warner Bros. bought the rights.

From there the path to actually creating the movie was comparatively smoother, with production beginning in June 2019, set for a summer 2020 release date. It was delayed again because of the pandemic but finally, it is out now and available to watch in cinemas and on HBO Max.

Anthony Ramos in In The Heights
Anthony Ramos as Usnavi in Warner Bros. Pictures’ In The Heights Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Who does Lin-Manuel Miranda play in In The Heights?

Although Miranda played the lead role of Usnavi de la Vega in the stage musical, he's taking a backseat in the movie version, instead playing Piragero, the Piragua Guy.

Miranda and director Jon M. Chu cast Anthony Ramos to take over the role of Usnavi. Ramos may be familiar to Hamilton fans as he played the roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton on Broadway and in the filmed version for Disney+.

At Miranda's urging, Chu met with Ramos to discuss the role. Chu told Variety Ramos' connection to the script convinced him he was right for the part. He added: "Oh, and he could sing and dance, he's charming, and he's funny and all the things that make a movie star."

Ramos has played the role of Usnavi on stage before, in both 2012 during a regional tour and again in 2018. Miranda saw the performance and he tweeted his approval for Ramos.

Usnavii pic.twitter.com/Ob4uUbsK64

— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) March 16, 2018

How can I watch In The Heights Online?

In The Heights is out in cinemas now but you can also watch it from the comfort of your own home on HBO Max. An ad-free subscription to HBO Max costs $14.99 per month or you can subscribe for $9.99 per month to watch all of the service's movies and TV shows with ads.