Chimney Sweep

In ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ Lin-Manuel Miranda arrives as a movie-musical star

Lin-Manuel Miranda has seen Mary Poppins Returns three times.

Typically, actors promoting projects around the world are on duty before and after each screening for red carpet photos and post-show chats. You might choose not to sit through your own movie more than once. But Miranda often takes his place at dazzling premieres and guild events for his new musical.

“Do people usually skip these?” he asked, shaking his head. “I worked too hard on this film not to see it.”

Of course, Miranda is no stranger to hard work. The 38-year-old theater composer spent five years practically perfecting the Tony, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway giant “Hamilton” and appeared in the three-hour production seven times a week.

But “Mary Poppins Returns,” Disney’s musical sequel to the popular 1964 classic by Julie Andrews, is Miranda’s first major film role. The film begins and ends with its main character cycling through 1930s London with big eyes. He sings with a wide Cockney accent, he taps a nursery rhyme, he dances with hand-drawn animated animals. He cites an eight-minute tongue-twisting number that, because of its numerous elements – is typing! Torches! BMX Parkour! – 50 dancers and two weeks required to shoot in multiple locations.

Lin-Manuel Miranda shares the screen with Emily Blunt and animated friends on Mary Poppins Returns.

(Disney)

While the film’s critics are mixed (reviews ranged from “thoroughly delightful” to “bright, gaudy, and joyless”), the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. was delighted and awarded Miranda his first Golden Globe nomination for acting.

Seeing yourself on screen “felt like I’d seen ‘Hamilton’ for the first time as a spectator,” he told the Times. On stage as Hamilton, he said, “I was into this thing and trusted my staff to tell the story. I knew it was us from the audience’s reaction, but that didn’t prepare me for the first time I saw ‘Satisfied’ – holy … look at the 50 things going on here!

“That’s how I felt when I saw this film. While we were shooting these animated sequences, we were dancing on a large green staircase with nothing but imagination and confidence, ”he continued. “Actually seeing these moments unfolds in exactly the same way [director] rob [Marshall] Describing it two years ago is exciting. “

Opposite Emily Blunt, who takes on the role of the magical nanny of the Banks family, for whom Julie Andrews won an Oscar, Miranda plays a lamp-spotlight or Leerie named Jack, a character not found in PL Travers’ writings, but from Bert, the charming chimney, is derived from Sweep Dick Van Dyke starred in the original film. The new role was the brainchild of Marshall and his producer, choreographer and partner John DeLuca.

Miranda’s Jack goes on a new adventure with Mary Poppins of Blunt and the Banks family in the new sequel.

(Jay Maidment / Disney)

“They liked the idea of ​​someone who brought light and hope to the world,” explained screenwriter David Magee. Enter Miranda’s character Jack – “I called him a ‘jack of all trades’ and it stuck,” noted Magee – who trained as a chimney sweep under Bert and helps the now-grown Banks children (played by Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer). “Our story is about telling people that you can get through difficult times. So we wanted this character to be an orphan – someone who has suffered some loss but still holds onto their youthful spirit and joy.

“Basically, he was raised by Bert too, so he must have met Mary Poppins at some point. And he has inherited this enthusiasm for light and warmth and irrepressible optimism. “

While Miranda is a positive person herself – so much so that his encouraging tweets spawned a New York Times bestselling book featuring illustrator Jonny Sun – it’s hard to believe that Miranda, thanks to this role in Jack, his stage work was occupied in “Hamilton”.

He has this connection to his inner child that nobody else in the film has. I only give Rob [Marshall] infinite honor to see that in me.

Lin-Manuel Miranda on his “Mary Poppins Returns” character Jack

Miranda can’t quite believe it either. His Hamilton, he noted, has no “childlike miracle in his heart at all – he is someone whom early trauma and disastrous childhood have severed the brake lines to a sense of innocence and wonder. It’s all hectic urgency and “I have to do all of this … before I die.”

“Compare that to Jack singing ‘Under the beautiful London skies’ – it’s a gray … sky he sings about!” he laughed. “He has this connection to his inner child that nobody else in the film has. I just give endless credit to Rob for seeing this in me because it’s not what was on display at the Richard Rodgers [Theater] back then.”

Miranda and Van Dyke, who make a happy appearance in the new film, have more in common than their characters. “He switched from ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ to ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, which was 32 episodes a year, and made ‘Mary Poppins’ … during the summer break,” he explained. “I’m not very busy compared to Dick Van Dyke when he made the first film. [On set]We have connected a lot on this level. “

Lin-Manuel Miranda

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Miranda is quite busy indeed. Ever since “Hamilton,” the hip-hop phenomenon of America’s founding fathers, went from being a hot ticket on Broadway to a must-see thing in popular culture, Miranda herself has been consistently coveted in Hollywood, in a moment new fascination for musicals.

He composed original songs for Disney’s animated hit “Moana” and will write the music for Disney’s later live-action “Little Mermaid”. He works on film, television and possible stage adaptations of the fantasy novels “The Kingkiller Chronicle”. He is executive producer on FX’s upcoming limited series about Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, starring Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams. and he is part of the cast of the highly anticipated BBC series “His Dark Materials” starring James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and “Logan” Breakout Dafne Keen.

Two film musicals with Quiara Alegría Hudes – Warner Bros. ‘The adaptation of his first Broadway show “In the Heights” and Sony’s animated adventure “Vivo” will be released in 2020. And he will make his directorial debut with an adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical work “Tick, Tick … Boom!”

With so many musical projects, Miranda used the large-scale production “Mary Poppins Returns”, which included eight weeks of rehearsal, on-site filming at several London attractions and eight lavish sound days at Shepperton Studios, as an intensive workshop in translating his favorite art form onto screen.

“It was a film school for me,” he recalled. “When a camera scans your face 50 feet tall on a screen, it’s harder to suddenly break into a song and let the audience buy it, isn’t it? Rob knows how to make that transition from language to song that we’re more likely to accept in theater because we know we’re going to a musical. When you buy a ticket to ‘Phantom of the Opera’ you say, ‘If they don’t sing, I’ll be pissed off.’ “

Miranda is encouraged by the numerous directors who try their hand at the space, including Jon M. Chu, the director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” who is directing the adaptation of “In the Heights.”

“The ambitions in some of the musical numbers from [Chu’s] ‘Step Up’ movies – I’d put them next to some music numbers from the Golden Era. ” he said. “I’m very excited to see what he’s doing with Latin American music and what he’s doing in our neighborhood. Seeing him face to face will be my sophomore year of film school. “

Lin-Manuel Miranda will next repeat his role in his hit musical “Hamilton”.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Miranda’s definition of “Zen” goes back to the lyrically demanding role that sparked his meteoric rise: He repeats his leading role in “Hamilton” for three weeks in Puerto Rico in a theater that is being rebuilt after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

“Even in that first year when the crowd got so big it was hard to get in and out of the theater, the most relaxing hours of my day were always the show,” he said. “My only job was to play Alexander Hamilton. It’s such a difficult role that it’s like yoga: it takes all of your focus and you can’t slack off or get hit by a chair or fall off the turntable. But it’s peaceful in there, and I can use that. “

With all of his upcoming engagements, Miranda will at least take the time to see “Mary Poppins Returns” at least one more private screening in New York with his family and friends.

“Well, the 10 month old [Francisco] I will never remember it, but the 4 year old will [Sebastian] will like it, ”he said of his sons. “”[Sebastian] I shot this at a time when he was just starting to make memories, so it’s so weirdly groundbreaking in his brain. And for him, Emily Blunt is his girlfriend, the adorable lady who makes a Peppa Pig impression on the set. I am very curious how he will react. “

MORE ‘MARY POPPINS’:

REVIEW: ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ and she really shouldn’t have

VIDEO: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Dick Van Dyke on ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

How “Mary Poppins Returns” star Emily Blunt and director Rob Marshall aimed to make a “Joybomb on the Soul”

ashley.lee@latimes.com

Twitter: @cashleelee

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