Andrew Garfield, Lin-Manuel Miranda join forces for ‘Tick, Tick ... Boom!’
Lin-Manuel Miranda was a 21-year-old aspiring artist when the “Tick, Tick ... Boom!” stage musical blew his mind.
It was in October 2001 that Miranda — now known for creating Broadway blockbusters “In the Heights” and “Hamilton” — first witnessed Jonathan Larson’s semiautobiographical take on being a struggling songwriter in New York.
“It was the show that strengthened my resolve to want to make theater for a living,” Miranda said.
Now, Miranda makes his feature directorial debut with a film adaptation of “Tick, Tick ... Boom!” that stars Andrew Garfield as Larson.
Miranda and Garfield hope their movie, out now on Netflix, highlights the immense influence of Larson, who also wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Rent” and changed theater by infusing rock music into his shows.
“I really took that thesis to heart, and I brought the art forms that I loved, hip-hop music and Latin music, into musical theater,” Miranda, 41, said. “He was so much about bringing all of yourself to your work, and I think he inspired a generation to do that.”
Garfield, 38, made it his mission to authentically portray Larson as both a person and performer in the movie, which is also playing in select theaters.
He spent a year working on singing, dancing and playing the piano, while poring over vintage videos and speaking with friends and relatives of Larson, who died in 1996.
“It was like I was being reintroduced to a long-lost brother that I didn’t know existed in Jon,” Garfield said.
“He felt kindred. I felt connected to him and his ethical mind, the way he creates, his longing to heal a broken system and a broken culture, and his love of life, his love of community. I found that really, really moving.”
Larson performed “Tick, Tick ... Boom!” in small theaters during the early 1990s, before “Rent,” which follows a group of bohemian artists in New York, exploded onto Broadway in 1996.
Following the success of “Rent,” which addressed social topics such as sexuality and HIV/AIDS, “Tick, Tick ... Boom!” debuted Off-Broadway in 2001.
“High school students right now, they want to do one of two plays,” Garfield said. “They want to do ‘Hamilton’ or ‘Rent,’ and it’s because they’re in the mood for a revolution, because there’s so much to revolt against. The systems that we’re living within are doing so much damage to the planet and to us as individuals and us as a society that these young people right now are waking up to that.”
The “Tick, Tick ... Boom!” movie depicts the hardships Larson endured and the sacrifices required to make it on Broadway.
“It shows our lives so accurately, and our day-to-day struggles,” Joshua Henry, who plays Roger, a singer in Larson’s show, said. “What it means to get theater produced in New York. The stages, from reading to workshop to Broadway. For every Broadway show that’s there, there are 500 workshops that don’t get a chance.”
The film also shows that the sense of community featured throughout “Rent” was a common theme in Larson’s real life, says actor Robin de Jesus, who plays the composer’s best friend, Michael.
“You really get to see that it was systemic for him, that it wasn’t just put on in the show,” de Jesus said. “Lin-Manuel was telling us this story the other day about how Jonathan ... would leave surprise gifts or he would write songs specifically for (his friends). He was just always trying to be there for them and bring a smile to their faces.”
Garfield, who won a Tony in 2018 for “Angels in America,” hopes “Tick, Tick... Boom!” expands Larson’s reach even further.
“We’re just forever indebted to Jonathan,” Garfield said. “This is a way of really honoring Jon and keeping the ripples of his work spreading throughout the world.”
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