‘Hamilton’ Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda Says Making the Disney+ Film Was Like Filming and Indie Movie Between Shows

When Hamilton was on Broadway or touring and tickets cost $1000, people still went to see it over and over. They’ll surely go back once theaters reopen, but for now viewers can experience Hamilton on Disney+. The filmed 2016 performance with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the original cast premiered July 3.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo | Disney+

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Miranda appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air podcast on June 29 to discuss the Disney+ movie of Hamilton. He told host Terry Gross how they filmed it during a full week of shows on Broadway.

Lin-Manuel Miranda says ‘Hamilton’ works whether you’re in the nosebleeds or watching on Disney+

Even if you land tickets to Hamilton, you may only get seats in the very back row. That’s okay, because Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom, Jr. and the rest of the cast perform big. However, Miranda marveled how their performances worked on camera too. 

Hamilton
L-R: Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Anthony Ramos | Disney+

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“When you watch this movie, you’ll see it’s not an accident that so many of our original cast have gone on to greater success in film and television,” Miranda told Gross. “They are acting to fill the Richard Rodgers theater and it works in a close-up with the camera two inches from your face. They all have that incredible skill set.”

Most movies aren’t as prepared as ‘Hamilton’

In feature films, rehearsals are a luxury most movies can’t afford. They just have to use all the time they have to shoot. Theater has to rehearse because they’re doing the whole show in one go. The Hamilton cast already had a year of performances under their belt when they filmed the show.

Hamilton: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda | Disney+

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“It’s probably the best rehearsed movie cast of all time because we’ve been doing our roles for a year,” Miranda said. “I think it honors and captures their work in the macro and in the micro.”

They filmed more performances in between live shows

Hamilton wasn’t just a matter of filming the shows Miranda and the cast were already performing. They had extra work in between shows and on their days off to capture enough angles of each song.

“We’re literally shooting an independent movie in between our eight show a week schedule,” Miranda said. “We filmed a Sunday matinee, filmed all night Sunday, filmed all day Monday, filmed all Tuesday morning, and then put the cameras in different positions and filmed the Tuesday night show. It was a three day film shoot but I’m so grateful we have it.”

Miranda adds that the Disney+ show is no substitute for seeing Hamilton live, but it was still worth making.

“It’s not a definitive production of a live Hamilton but it is a snapshot of what it felt like with that company at the end of June of 2016,” Mmiranda said.

The ‘Hamilton’ movie is a portrait of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s exhaustion

Hamilton represented Miranda over a year into eight shows a week. Keep in mind he was also writing the music for Moana at that time, working on other projects and he had a personal life.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda | Disney+

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When it comes to looking at myself, I see me at maybe my most tired I’ve ever been. I think I look more rested now on the other side of 40 than I did in 2016 when I had a newborn child, was still doing live Ham4Ham shows, these live shows we used to do outside the theater for the folks who were trying to get lottery tickets to the two front rows. And the seven show a week schedule and life. I still don’t know how I came out on the other side of that year intact. Actually, I do know. My incredible wife holding down the fort is how I came out on the other side of that show intact.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Fresh Air podcast, 6/29/2020