Editor’s Note: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay series debuts and celebrates the film scripts that will be factors in this year’s cinematic award race.
The life of To rent creator Jonathan Larson was so dramatic it could only be told as a musical. It helped that Larson himself wrote his own autobiographical musical, tick, tick… Boom! First presented as a one-man show by Larson in 1991, it was extended to a musical with three actors in 2001, years after his death. Tony-winning and Emmy-nominated playwright Steven Levenson adapted the play into a screenplay, and Lin-Manuel Miranda made his directorial debut with the result Netflix film, which stars Andrew Garfield as Larson.
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In 1990, Jon (Garfield) already felt like time was running out. He is 30 years old and has yet to write his masterpiece. He waits for tables and neglects his girlfriend, Susan (Alexandra Shipp). His friend Michael (Robin de Jesus) tries to help Jon pay for corporate gigs, but the battle between art and commerce also creates a wedge between them. Jon writes what he knows, songs about struggling to create and wondering what he’s going to do with his life. He ultimately devotes everything to a workshop for Broadway power actors. It may not be success To rent would become, but it’s a start.
Miranda starred in a 2014 production of tick, tick… Boom! before the premiere of Hamilton. To rent had inspired Miranda’s work, including her previous show In the heights. Producer Julie Oh had seen Miranda’s performance and introduced the project to Imagine Entertainment. Garfield started taking voice lessons in 2018, so he would be ready to rehearse in 2019 and perform in 2020. Filming began on March 3, 2020 and stopped later in the month, then resumed in October according to Covid-19 security protocols.
tick, tick… Boom! premiered at AFI Fest, opened in theaters on November 12, and premiered on Netflix a week later. AFI named it one of its 10 best films of the year, while the Critics Choice Awards nominated it for Best Picture and Best Actor for Garfield.
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