Editors note: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay series debuts and celebrates the scripts of films that will be factors in this year’s movie awards race.
The life of 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 performed as a one-man show by Larson in 1991, it was expanded into a musical with a cast of three in 2001, years after his death. Tony-winning playwright and Emmy nominee Steven Levenson adapted the play into a screenplay, and Lin-Manuel Miranda made his directorial debut with the resulting Netflix film, which stars Andrew Garfield as Larson.
In 1990, Jon (Garfield) already feels like time is running out. He’s 30 and hasn’t written his masterpiece yet. He’s waiting tables and neglecting his girlfriend, Susan (Alexandra Shipp). His friend Michael (Robin de Jesus) tries to help Jon with paying corporate gigs, but the battle between art and commerce drives a wedge between them too. Jon writes what he knows, songs about struggling to create and wondering what he’ll make of his life. He ultimately devotes everything to a workshop for Broadway’s power players. It may not be the success Rent would become, but it’s a start.
Miranda starred in a 2014 production of tick, tick… Boom! prior to the premiere of Hamilton. Rent had inspired Miranda’s work, including his prior show In the Heights. Producer Julie Oh had seen Miranda’s performance and brought the project to Imagine Entertainment. Garfield began singing lessons in 2018 so he’d be ready to rehearse in 2019 and perform in 2020. Filming began March 3, 2020 and shut down later that month, then resumed in October under Covid-19 safety protocols.
tick, tick… Boom! had its world premiere at AFI Fest, opened in theaters November 12 and premiered on Netflix a week later. AFI named it one of its Top 10 Films of the Year, while the Critics Choice Awards nominated it for Best Picture and Best Actor for Garfield.
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