The movie rights to In the Heights, the musical written by Lin Manuel-Miranda (words and music) and Philly’s Quiara Alegría Hudes (book), is back in the hands of the authors.
Universal, which had owned them for years, released the rights in 2011. The Weinstein Co. picked them up in May 2016, right about the time Hamilton became a Broadway smash.
Jon M. Chu agreed to direct, and casting had even begun. But in fall 2017, sexual assault and harassment accusations broke against company cofounder Harvey Weinstein.
In October, Hudes posted a lengthy Twitter message declaring that “As a woman, I can no longer do business with the Weinstein Company. To those women who suffered directly at Harvey’s hands, I extend my sincerest compassion and support.” Miranda tweeted: “I’m as appalled and repulsed by the Weinstein news as anyone with a beating heart. And forever in awe of the bravery of those who spoke out.”
— Quiara A Hudes (@quiarahudes) October 12, 2017
The Weinstein Co. fell into a legal death spiral. According to Deadline, the company returned the rights without fanfare to the authors shortly before declaring bankruptcy last month. As a result, Miranda and Hudes can now shop for a studio and funders.
In the Heights has had quite a journey. Miranda began it in 1999, his sophomore year at Wesleyan University. Hudes joined the development team in 2004, and the Miranda-Hudes musical had its debut in Connecticut the next year. She has said that although the musical is based in Manhattan, for much of the material, she drew on her years growing up in a Jewish Puerto Rican family in West Philadelphia.
The musical had its debut on Broadway in 2008 and went on to win four Tonys, including best musical, and the original cast album won a Grammy that year.
Since closing on Broadway in 2011, In the Heights has been on various tours throughout the world. A PBS Great Performances documentary, In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams, traces the struggles of Miranda and the then largely unknown cast to get the musical into the public view.
Set in New York’s Washington Heights, the story concerns a bodega owner named Usnavi de la Vega. He’s the neighborhood storyteller. Thanks to an inheritance from his grandmother, he can close his bodega and retire to his native Dominican Republic. But his feelings are deeply mixed.
Themes include the story of immigrants, the question of place and identity, and Latino cultures. As in Hamilton (but written before it), In the Heights mixes in rap and and pop music.
In the Heights received its debut in Philadelphia at the Academy of Music in 2011.