- Category: Interviews
- Published: Sunday, 14 March 2021 17:03
- Written by Lupe R Haas
CRAZY RICH ASIANS director Jon M. Chu helms Lin-Manuel Miranda's movie adaptation of his hit play IN THE HEIGHTS. While he may not have grown up in the Latino community where the story is based on, the themes are very familiar to him as a Chinese American.
The filmmakers and cast reunited during a Zoom press conference two years after production to reminisce about the special time they had on set, and why the IN THE HEIGHTS movie musical will be a universal experience of family, community and making dreams happen.
The IN THE HEIGHTS adaptation stars Anthony Ramos, Jimmy Smits, Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Orange is the New Black's" Dascha Polanco, Vida's Melissa Barrera, Corey Hawkins (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON), “Brooklyn Nine-Nine's” Stephanie Beatriz, and Olga Merediz reprises her role from Broadway. The screenplay is by the original playwright, Quiara Alegría Hudes.
As the new trailer previews, the dance musical numbers are huge and complicated with dozens of dancers. Chu may have been the obvious choice to helm the Latino-led cast because of his extensive experience in choreographed features such as STEP UP: THE STREETS, STEP UP 3D and producing/directing the dance series, The LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers.
However, Chu could also relate to the themes of family and community.
"It reminded me when I saw the show years and years ago of my own upbringing. Even though I was not from Washington Heights, but the complete opposite of the country - from a Chinese family in a Chinese restaurant. I recocognize all the love. I recognize all the characters. I recognize all the aunties and uncles who raise you and say, "I love you" with their food."
The Palo Alto, CA native reveals IN THE HEIGHTS has no villain, only the struggle of finding your way in this life, and what home means to them. While he could relate to the themes and recognized the similar Latino traditions in the movie, he looked to the cast to guide him especially when it came to what you'd find on the dinner table such as the types of sauces. He gives an example during the press conference. In a dinner scene in which the food was laid out like a buffet, the cast informed him that the food always goes elsewhere and never on the table. He listened to their every word. "The cast really guided me every step of the way," says Chu.
Star Anthony Ramos who plays the lead, Usnavi de la Vega was most impressed with Chu's directorial skills. Ramos was astonished that Chu could finish a major dance scene in one day, and commanded the technical shots with knowledge and speed. "I think Jon will go down as one of the greatest directors of all time," Ramos boasted.
No doubt others feel the same way about Jon M. Chu. Up next he's directing a movie adaptation of WICKED.
This summer we all will have lots to dance and sing to including the release of IN THE HEIGHTS in movie theaters June 18, and on HBO Max.