EXCLUSIVE: In the Heights, the movie adaptation of the Tony-winning stage musical by Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, has gotten clear of The Weinstein Company. This comes months after its creators demanded back the property following the Harvey Weinstein alleged sexual assault scandal bared in articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker.
Deadline has learned that the underlying rights quietly reverted back to Miranda and Hudes before TWC went into bankruptcy, because the film didn’t go into production by year end. Those 363 bankruptcy proceedings get underway Friday in Delaware court. There could be turbulence on this in court, but sources said plans are being made to pitch the project to other studios. Both Disney and Warner Bros are strong candidates. Miranda just completed work starring for Disney in Mary Poppins Returns, and where he composed music on the animated hit Moana. Warner Bros just wrapped Crazy Rich Asians with Jon M. Chu directing. Chu will direct In The Heights. The script is by Hudes, with Miranda’s music and lyrics. It’s been 10 years since In the Heights opened on Broadway with Miranda starring as a bodega owner in Washington Heights who strikes it rich and plans to leave, until the pull of the neighborhood and the people in it give him pause. The musical won four Tony Awards.
It things go according to plan, In the Heights has effectively caught the last helicopter out of Saigon. The other picture that escaped in a different scenario is Six Billion Dollar Man, which had long been rumored to be on the move as a possible Mark Wahlberg vehicle at Warner Bros. The studio finally felt confident enough to announce it yesterday. Other films aren’t so lucky, are registered as assets and will have to wait for the bankruptcy outcome before the seven finished features can be released, and the 50 or so development projects frozen in place can move forward.
There are good ones in the latter category, including the Richard Pryor biopic that the comic’s widow Jennifer Pryor assigned to TWC several years ago. That picture once had Lee Daniels ready to direct and Mike Epps with Oprah Winfrey, Eddie Murphy and Kate Hudson circling the major roles. Nothing happens until the bankruptcy judge decides whether those assets go in total to stalking horse bidder Lantern Capital, or to one of the other bidders waiting for their shot. That list includes Lionsgate, Miramax (beIN), Lionsgate, Vine Investments and Killer Content. Some observers believe that if Lantern doesn’t pan out, the assets — library and projects — could be broken up if that’s what brings the highest amount for secured and unsecured creditors.
The finished films — whose makers are trying to get them out — include Hotel Mumbai (an awards-caliber picture whose backers are trying to separate from the bankruptcy auction, given that it was acquired for distribution for no minimum guarantee); the Rooney Mara-Joaquin Phoenix-starrer Mary Madgdalene; the Intouchables remake The Upside with Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman; the Robert De Niro-starrer The War With Grandpa; and The Current War, the Benedict Cumberbatch-Michael Shannon-starrer that premiered in Toronto before it was re-cut by director Alfonso-Gomez Rejon.
The greatest wish of the In the Heights was to be free of association with Harvey Weinstein. Right after the scandal broke, Hudes let loose her frustrations and outrage on social media. In a demand for rights to revert, she wrote: “Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation is despicable enough, but combined with his staggering power it’s insidious, even devilish. Decades. He thrives on this. He build an empire in this. It’s been hard for me to sleep at night. My stomach is in knots. Forget the platitudes about ‘I have a daughter’ (which I do). I have friends, I have a mom, I am a woman. Harvey did not act alone. He had powerful enablers in his company and at the top tier of the criminal justice system. I hope there is an ethical investigation into Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s role in enabling Harvey Weinstein’s illegal behavior.”
That investigation was indeed ordered by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, so it looks like Hudes will get all that she asked for.
The final project that won’t be in the bankruptcy proceedings, but is as frozen as everything else, is Fahrenheit 11/9, the Michael Moore-directed documentary film about Donald Trump’s surprising presidential election win, and all that has followed. TWC made a deal for distribution, but the deal for the picture belonged personally with Harvey and Bob Weinstein. That is because it’s considered a sequel to Fahrenheit 9/11, the highest-grossing docu in film history, which the Weinsteins set up personally because Disney owners forbade them to distribute the film under the Miramax banner. As Deadline revealed last November, the brothers put in $2 million of a $6 million commitment. Bob Weinstein seemed willing to walk away, but Harvey Weinstein wants his investment back, or to proceed as producer. Moore, who also took to social media to slam Weinstein, found each of those scenarios untenable. Moore and reps have threatened to sue for fraud on the grounds that Weinstein entered into the deal last Cannes, at a time he was aware that the devastating press stories were coming. The project remains at a stalemate, and so a timely documentary is at a standstill. The original plan was for it to reach theaters one year after Trump’s election. That was last fall.