All the crap you put up with to live in New York turns out to be worth it when Fate decides to momentarily make it up to you, like it did me last night with a seat to see three power players in the arts chatting up each other, for the benefit of MacDowell Colony: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Martin Scorsese and Michael Chabon. The artists, each sporting loveable affects of their generations: man-tail (Lin, 35), pop sox (Michael, 52) cufflinks (Martin, 73)– talked about myriad Things of Interest, including:

  1. New Projects

Lin is writing the songs & lyrics for a new Disney musical called Moana. When? When does he find time to do this, being not only lead in a Broadway musical six days a week, but dad of a one-year-old (Sebastian)? “I teleconference with Hollywood on Thursdays before the show. And I write like mad between shows on Wednesday.”

Scorsese is in final edit of a film he’s put off doing for decades: Silence, based on a novel of the same name set in 1640 Japan, about two Portuguese Jesuits played by Adam Driver and Liam Neeson. “Lighting it is a challenge,” he said, “because of course they didn’t have any lights then. We use, for most of it, Alexa Digital.” (Which I assume means something if you are a filmmaker.)

  1. Catholicism

LMM–”I grew up with a hyperCatholic grandmother. We’d always pretend to be asleep until after she left for 6:30 AM Mass–otherwise, she’d drag us with her.” He was influenced by Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ (“which came out when I was 7, Martin, not to make you feel old”) and took a “Gospels of Christianity” class when he went to Wesleyan, where he had an epiphany that eventually morphed into Hamilton: “I was shocked to discover that The Bible was edited. The class was about the many stories that didn’t make it in there. It made me realize that history is about who tells the story.”

MS –”I considered the priesthood for a long time. I grew up in a Catholic Sicilian village on Elizabeth Street. America was five blocks away. I’d moved there from Corona, Queens when I was little. My parents who had grown up on Elizabeth, moved to Queens where I was born. But after my dad got into a fight with the landlord, we landed back on Elizabeth Street. It was a different world from Queens. ‘Don’t fight!’ my parents told me. ‘You’ll get killed!’ I went to Sisters of Mercy Catholic School. There was a priest in the neighborhood I wanted to be like, but I discovered I had no vocation. The zealousness I felt for the priesthood, I transferred to film.”

  1. History

LMM–”History was white guys on money and statues, until I started thinking in terms of story.”

MS–(who’d just flown in from LA) “I can’t believe that this is the Bowery. When I lived here, Mafia was still in its heyday. If you wanted to get anything done, you had to deal with them. For Mean Streets (1973) we had to pay a guy $300 to shoot in a church here. That was ok. But when the San Gennaro Festival committee wanted $5,000, I didn’t have it. Coppola lent it to me. Then, the minute the picture came out, he wanted it back!”

  1. Musical Theater

LMM–”I come from a deep love of musical theater. Hamilton contains Camelot references because my mom used to blast the soundtrack from the front seat of the car. I wanted to make songs like from Les Miz, Camelot, which were songs that could make my parents cry. I tried to make referential musicals, not new musical theater. But, it turns out, this is how musical theater comes out when I do it…I wrote Hamilton the same way I made Maxell mix tapes for girls I liked in high school. I’m calcified in early 90s hip-hop because that’s when I came of age. The way Alexander Hamilton took his life and destroyed it–that’s a story only hip-hop could tell.”

MS–”We had no habit of reading in the house I grew up in. There was only music. New York, New York was my tribute to musical theater. I was very affected by films I saw with my father–Rear Window, Double Indemnity. He wasn’t an expressive man; the only thing that made him emotional was movies. So naturally, I wanted to do that. I wanted to tell stories in pictures that affected people like my dad.”

  1. Bro Culture

 LMM–”The founding fathers were actually bro’s! Aaron Burr married one of the daughters from Jamal Mansion, took all her money and left her. Ben Franklin–Google it!– published a paper about dating older women, recommending it because they won’t get pregnant, and they are grateful. We wrote the Schuyler Sisters into the play to counteract the bro sexism. The oldest sister was just as smart and interesting as the bro’s, but she didn’t have their access.”

MS–”I stumbled into working with DeNiro because he was a guy who hung out in my neighborhood. I met him when he was only sixteen.”

Chabon’s role was moderator, artful facilitator, but managed to get in a few bon mots. To Scorsese–”So, your work is: We Had It Good, We Got Greedy, We Fucked It Up. Right?” Scorsese–and the audience, judging by laughter–agreed.

At the after party, I had the pleasure of meeting not only the artists, but Lin’s mother, petite, attractive Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda (psychologist.) “Was he always like this?” I asked, mother to mother. “Yes!” she said, beaming. “When he was two years old–two!–Lin would answer the doorbell with ‘I know all the words to 12 Days of Christmas!‘, then sing them without stopping to anyone who would listen.”







2017-04-13T15:33:17+00:00 December 8th, 2015|Uncategorized|