A REAL SONG AND DANCE MAN

Meet the ge­nius be­hind Mary Pop­pins Re­turns.

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

The first rule of celebrity in­ter­views is not to ask the same old ques­tions ev­ery­one asks. But when it comes to Lin-manuel Mi­randa, it’s hard to hold back. So, when is Hamil­ton com­ing to Aus­tralia? The an­swer is “at some point,” which is vague but hope­ful. It’s also ex­tremely po­lite, given that this in­ter­view isn’t about Mi­randa’s Tony Award-win­ning, record-break­ing, cul­tural atom bomb of a mu­si­cal. No. It’s about what comes next, when you take the life story of one of the US found­ing fa­thers, Alexan­der Hamil­ton, turn it into a smash hit hip-hop Broad­way mu­si­cal, blow ev­ery­body clean away, and turn your sights to other things. Specif­i­cally: Mary Pop­pins Re­turns.

The film is a se­quel to the 1964 Julie An­drews clas­sic; Emily Blunt plays the tit­u­lar Mary, and Mi­randa is Jack, a lamp­lighter and Mary’s love in­ter­est. “It’s daunt­ing to re­make a beloved film like

Mary Pop­pins,” he says. “I think it’s very smart not to do a re­boot, it’s fol­low­ing on from the story.” Mi­randa, who one imag­ines could have his pick of roles, was drawn to the project for the chance to work with di­rec­tor Rob Mar­shall (Chicago) and co-star Blunt, who he says is “so gen­er­ous with ev­ery mem­ber of the cast and crew”.

Mi­randa says he was one of those lucky kids who “al­ways knew” what he wanted to do. His a-ha mo­ment? Watch­ing The Lit­tle Mer­maid. “When Se­bas­tian the crab sang ‘Un­der The Sea’, it was like my life be­fore then was black and white and my life af­ter that was in colour. I don’t know what it is about that song and that mo­ment but it was the most trans­ported I have ever felt in a movie the­atre.” At univer­sity, he started a hip-hop troupe, Freestyle Love Supreme (more on this later) and wrote a draft of In The Heights, the mu­si­cal which would first bring him pop­u­lar and crit­i­cal ac­claim.

Nearly 10 years later, in 2008, it opened on Broad­way and went on to win 13 Tony Awards. From there he worked on Bring It

On: The Mu­si­cal and in 2012, he be­gan per­form­ing a show then known as The Hamil­ton Mix­tape. Three years later it was born again as Hamil­ton, and the modern mu­si­cal changed for­ever. Since Mi­randa left the pro­duc­tion in 2016, he’s won a Pulitzer for it, been nom­i­nated for an Academy Award (for the songs he wrote for Moana), writ­ten mu­sic for Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens, been nom­i­nated for an Emmy for host­ing Satur­day Night Live and, in an al­most too-per­fect full-cir­cle mo­ment, is now com­pos­ing mu­sic for The Lit­tle Mer­maid re­boot. “My job is to be the big­gest fan of The Lit­tle Mer­maid. Done.”

Mar­ried since 2010 to his high school sweet­heart, lawyer Vanessa Nadal, and a fa­ther of two, Mi­randa says get­ting the work-life bal­ance is just as tricky for Broad­way roy­alty as it is for the rest of us. “We strug­gle with that just as much as any­body on earth, re­ally. When you have two kids it’s sort of di­vide and con­quer – like I’ll run af­ter that one, you take that one.” He laughs. “We’re fig­ur­ing it out ev­ery day.” I ask him what the se­cret is to be­ing with one per­son for such a long time – how do you keep the ro­mance alive? “I have no idea. Take hol­i­days? Ac­tu­ally, that’s where I started writ­ing Hamil­ton, on va­ca­tion one year. My wife made me go, we hadn’t been on hol­i­day for such a long time. But then I got this idea for

Hamil­ton, and I had to run with it. So maybe that’s not right. That was not very ro­man­tic for my wife.”

Mi­randa is known for his work pro­mot­ing char­i­ta­ble causes. He re­leased the song “Al­most Like Pray­ing” to aid Puerto Rico af­ter the dev­as­ta­tion of Hur­ri­cane Maria, and next year Hamil­ton will open on the is­land to pro­mote tourism there and hope­fully raise “mil­lions”. He also re­cently fought to re­claim the film rights to

In The Heights, which were owned by The We­in­stein Com­pany. “It was im­por­tant, as a man, to stand up and say I wanted the movie out of those hands. And now we’re back on track, and Warner Broth­ers have the rights. The hope is to film next sum­mer.”

Mi­randa re­as­sures us once more that Hamil­ton will def­i­nitely make it down un­der. “I love Aus­tralia,” he says. “I was there about 10 years ago, maybe more. I got my first tat­too in Mel­bourne.” More than get­ting his first ink, Aus­tralia is a re­minder of how far he’s come, he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever told this story be­fore. When I was in Freestyle Love Supreme, we were in this com­edy re­lief show in Mel­bourne. No­body knew who we were, we were lit­er­ally filler. And I’ll never for­get it be­cause as they did the live promo for the next ad break, the an­nouncer says some­thing like, ‘Com­ing up next… Ed­die Per­fect! Tim Minchin!’ And then the cam­era pans to us and the an­nouncer clearly doesn’t recog­nise us at all, so he says, ‘And… shit­loads more!’ So that’s who we were for a long time: Shit­loads More.” He laughs. “I love the his­tory of be­ing un­ac­knowl­edged and un­ap­pre­ci­ated in Aus­tralia. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” E

Mary Pop­pins Re­turns is in cin­e­mas Jan­uary 1

“It’s daunt­ing to re­make a beloved film like Mary Pop­pins. I think it’s very smart not to do a re­boot”

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