Lin-Manuel Miranda Q&A: ‘Saturday Night Live’
“That’s the hall pass that gets me in the room,” exclaims composer Lin-Manuel Miranda about his ability to craft songs for Broadway, film, and television. During our recent chat (watch above), he adds, “Leonard Cohen actually has my favorite quote on songwriting: ‘Being a songwriter is like being a nun. You’re married to a mystery.’ You do tons of research to get the details right, but it’s really nothing but putting yourself in the shoes of the character, feeling what they’re going through in the moment that you’re writing, and talking to yourself until it feels true.”
Miranda has co-written several of the songs for the new Disney animated film “Moana,” opening this week nationwide. Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is the young teenage daughter of the chief of Motunui Island in the Pacific. Against her family’s wishes, she sets sail to help save her tribe by finding the mythical Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Two of the featured tunes that might catch the ear of Oscar voters this year: “How Far I’ll Go” (the ongoing theme song about the desires of Moana) and “You’re Welcome” (a tongue-in-cheek, bouncy song explaining all about the demigod Maui).
About his earliest influences, he says, “The Disney movie that first transported me was ‘The Little Mermaid.’ I saw that movie right when I needed to. It came out when I was nine years old. I remember Sebastian the crab breaking into a calypso number in the middle of this Disney movie, and my life has never been the same since.” The fact that both “The Little Mermaid” and “Moana” are directed by the same two men, Ron Clements and John Musker, was a major factor for Miranda to join the project.
If Miranda does win an Academy Award for writing one of the “Moana” songs at the ceremony in February, he would become just the 13th person in history to to join the EGOT club (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony in competition). For the Broadway musical “In the Heights,” he won a Tony Award (2008) for Best Original Score and Grammy Award (2009) for Best Musical Theater Album. He won an Emmy Award (2014) for writing the song “Bigger!” on the 67th Annual Tony Awards. And for this year’s smash hit “Hamilton,” he won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical.
In our interview, we discuss the EGOT and the fact he would be the youngest (age 37) to ever join that small club. We also chat about his recent guest hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live” and plans for a possible movie version of “Hamilton.”