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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s much anticipated directorial debut tick, tick…BOOM! is timed to detonate Nov. 10 as the Netflix film opens the 35th edition of AFI Fest at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre.
Andrew Garfield and Alexandra Shipp, Mj Rodriguez, Judith Light and Vanessa Hudgens, among others, star in the film penned by Tony winner Steven Levenson based on the autobiographical musical from Rent playwright Jonathan Larson. For the part of Stephen Sondheim, a key inspiration for Larson’s work, Miranda drafted Bradley Whitford, a vet of the stage and screen. The Emmy-winning actor tells The Hollywood Reporter that he found the obligation of playing a legend like Sondheim “scary” but he found a soft place to land on Miranda’s set.
“He’s an extraordinarily talented human being but he’s also maybe the sweetest guy on the planet,” Whitford said while on the red carpet to support How it Ends, the world-ending comedy from Zoe Lister-Jones. While he encountered Miranda after seeing Hamilton on Broadway — “I felt like I was in a church, I couldn’t believe what he had done” — they share a key figure from their past.
“We had the same wonderful, crazy acting teacher in college,” Whitford said of the late William “Bill” Francisco of Wesleyan University. Francisco passed away at age 86 in 2019. “I’ve known Lin a little bit over the years because of that.” As for the scary part, Whitford says while there’s a relatively small percentage of the audience that has ever seen Sondheim, those who do know him love and adore him. “It’s scary to have that obligation but Lin was there to pull the blood out of me.”
Whitford, nominated for an Emmy for his turn on The Handmaid’s Tale, will tackle another legend by year’s end. The Ahmanson Theatre announced this week that Whitford will step into the shoes of Ebenezer Scrooge for the venue’s new interpretation of Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol. Adapted by Tony winner Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and originally directed and conceived by Tony winner Matthew Warchus (Matilda), A Christmas Carol is slated to run Nov. 21 through Jan. 1 with opening night set for Dec. 1. Tickets go on sale Oct. 6.
For us part, Whitford, in a statement, encouraged audiences to check out the new production. “Like so many of us, this time of enforced isolation has left me starving for the communal experience of the live theatre. I can’t imagine a more thrilling moment than stepping onto the stage in this spectacular new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Chrismas Carol. Come. Join us. Celebrate. And spoiler alert: God bless us. Every one!”
This story first appeared in the Sept. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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Academy Museum of Motion Pictures