Q&A:  Lin-Manuel Miranda talks ‘Mary Poppins,’ Bob Dylan and a mother’s love

“Hamilton” mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda has received his first Academy Award nomination. (Feb. 10, 2017)


He’s mastering Spotify. He’s humbled by all the “Hamilton” shout-outs. And he’s hoping his mom doesn’t pick out an Oscar dress with a train.

Heading home to an Epsom salts bath after another grueling day dancing and making merry opposite Emily Blunt on the London film set of “Mary Poppins Returns” (basically, he’s the Dick Van Dyke-like character to her Julie Andrews), Lin-Manuel Miranda called to talk about, among other things, being in the room where it happens on Oscar night.

I’m looking at the release date for “Mary Poppins.” This has to be wrong ... Christmas Day … 2018??? Why are you … why is Disney making us wait that long?


Yeah, I’m like, “Don’t put that on me.” [Laughs] That’s Disney. It’s a big, old-fashioned musical and there’s going to be a lot of post-production on it. But for me, that’s par for the course, right? You saw the first song for “Hamilton” in 2009 and I wasn’t able to finish it until 2015. So this is actually super-fast!

Using the Eliza Doolittle Scale of English Accents, where can we put your character’s enunciation in “Mary Poppins”? “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” or “I Could Have Danced All Night”?

I’d put it somewhere in the middle. I’d put it East End, but shy of Cockney. Think Anthony Newley but not quite Stanley Holloway.

Any word on whether you’ll be on stage at the Oscars?

That I don’t know the answer to yet. It’s a conversation that’s happening right now. I’ll definitely be at the party. I know my mom is looking for a dress.

Didn’t you promise to take her to the Oscars when you were 10 years old?


Again, don’t put that on me! [Laughs] That’s my mom saying, “When you get rich and famous, you’ll bring me as your date to the Oscars.” Mom was the believer, not me.

That’s nice to have from a parent.

It sure is. “My baby’s a genius.”

Is she asking for any advice on the dress?

I’m on this side of the pond, so I’m out of that discussion. I just hope it doesn’t involve me carrying a train down the red carpet.

You’ve mentioned aches and pains and Epsom salts baths a few times on Twitter in relation to making “Mary Poppins.” I don’t remember the original movie looking that demanding.

To be honest, I’m dancing harder in this movie than I have since “In the Heights.” The ensemble in “Hamilton” is maybe the hardest-working dance ensemble ever, but as a principal, it wasn’t as demanding as “In the Heights.” This is a throwback to that. And I’m a lot older now too!


You do call yourself Old Man Miranda on Twitter.

That’s so the kids don’t gang up on me for not knowing whatever meme they’re talking about. You have to protect yourself!

You did manage to cobble together a Spotify playlist. [He has since added a second.] What inspired that creation?

Honestly, I had been talking so much about mixtapes while making the “Hamilton” mixtape that I started thinking of what could be an extension of what I do on Twitter, which is really sort of to provide an oasis of positivity in a time when I think folks are feeling pretty divided. So I thought I’d like to make mixes for these times we live in — no more, no less. Here are the songs that I think speak to the moment.

It’s mostly contemporary songs, though you do have a number from “Hair” and Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man.” You said the Dylan song is the key to the playlist. How so?

If this election reveals anything, it’s that we’re getting our own news from our own sources — on both sides. And so that refrain, “Something’s happening and you don’t know what it is,” I think speaks to even more people now. I think Dylan had a pretty specific reason for writing it, but it’s a pretty universal refrain.


So in 2017, we’re all Mr. Jones?

[Laughs] Yeah. Depending on how you look at it, we’re all Mr. Jones. Both sides.

What have you thought about all the signs at the protest rallies that quote song lyrics from “Hamilton”?

It’s just really humbling is the best way of putting it. I saw some first-hand when I participated in the women’s march here in London on my day off. I saw a couple of “Love is love is love” signs and that was very amazing.

It’s so funny because “Hamilton” is about not being able to control your legacy, and I believe that’s true. You can only control the thing you make. And then the way that lands on the world and the way that continues from generation to generation is completely out of your control. And so you’re grateful when you find that thing you wrote resonates with other people.

You probably didn’t imagine the lyric “Immigrants — we get the job done” would resonate in the context it’s being used now.

No. I had Lafayette and Hamilton on the eve of a battle just finding some common ground. That was my job as a dramatist. I could never have imagined it being picked up as a callback like this.


You’ve had fun with the whole EGOT thing before with your pal Bill Sherman. Is he pulling for you on Oscar night to make it in ahead of him?

My buddy Bill … we were roommates out of college. We have fun talking about it. I understand the enthusiasm behind it. But there’s also nothing I can really do. I can take my mom to the Oscars and fulfill a promise to the 10-year-old me. But the rest is out of my control. What’s fun about being nominated for “Moana” is that I started watching the Oscars because “The Little Mermaid” was up for best song …

And Ron Clements and John Musker directed both movies …

Yes! So I tuned into the Oscars because I wanted to see “Under the Sea” on the show. I wanted it to win. It was the first time I cared so passionately about a film that I wanted it to win. So I remember taping the Oscars that year and memorizing the late, great Geoffrey Holder’s performance. And then I fell in love with the ceremony itself and it became a little tradition that my mom and I would watch together. It immediately turned me into an Oscar nerd.

Is there anything in particular you want to do when you attend the ceremony for the first time?

Oh gosh. That’s a great question. I never really thought about what folks do, other than look terrified and beautiful. I know I can pull off the terrified. I’ll work on the beautiful.


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Twitter: @glennwhipp


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