The Netflix movie marks Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s directorial debut and tells the story of the late Jonathan Larson, who struggles with feeling like his life has taken a wrong turn as he approaches his 30th birthday. Pressure mounts as he prepares to debut a new work at a showcase and races the clock to reach what could be a career-defining moment. At the same time, New York City is being devastated by the AIDS crisis.
Larson originally performed the show solo in 1990. However, he’s best known for composing Rent, which opened on Broadway in April 1996. Three months prior, the Tony winner died at age 35 after suffering an aortic aneurysm caused by an undiagnosed genetic condition.
Miranda has often spoken about how much Larson’s early work informed his own, initially signing on to direct the movie in January 2018. The following October, it was announced that Garfield would take on the lead role after Netflix acquired the rights.
“I’m not a musical theater guy in my history — it’s not something that I’ve been introduced to until the last few years, really,” Garfield admitted to The New York Times in September 2021 as he reflected on his early conversations with the Hamilton creator about the film. “So Lin left me with a copy of the music and lyrics, and he wrote at the front of it, ‘This won’t make sense now, but it will. Siempre, Lin.'”
The Pulitzer Prize winner, for his part, was totally convinced that Garfield had what it takes to bring Larson’s vision to life after seeing his “transcendent” performance in 2018’s Angels in America.
“I just left thinking, ‘Oh, that guy can do anything,'” Miranda told The New York Times. “I didn’t know if he could sing, but I just felt like he could do anything. So I cast him in my head probably a year before I talked to him about it.”
“I remember [musical arranger] Alex Lacamoire going, ‘Woo, Andrew!’ And then everyone behind him … were like, ‘Yeah baby, that’s it baby! You got it, baby!’ I go beet red and five minutes pass, and I’m just like, ‘Hey guys, sorry,'” the Silence actor recalled. “I start crying, and I say, ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever been this happy in my entire life, to be surrounded by the most supportive liars I have ever known.'”
While Garfield wasn’t familiar with Larson’s creation before joining the cast, it’s been on Miranda’s mind for years. “I saw that show my senior year in college when I was a theatre major about to enter the real world, and it was like a sneak preview of what my 20s were going to look like,” he told Today in 2018. “‘Here’s how hard it is, here’s how joyous it is, here’s what you’re in for, kid,’ said Jonathan Larson to me.”
Scroll down to learn more about Garfield’s musical debut in Tick, Tick… Boom!