How The 'Hamilton' Movie Gives Disney+ Viewers A "Snapshot" Of The Show At Its Height

The original cast of Hamilton remembers being very tired in June of 2016. They were a month away from taking their final bow after nearly a year of performing eight shows a week, to critical acclaim and astronomical popularity. Creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda was in the middle of writing the songs for Disney's upcoming animated film Moana. And the cast and crew had taken on the seemingly impossible task of filming their show for a feature film that had no distributor and no studio over the course of three days.

"I look very tired in the movie and I paid for that look," Miranda said in a Zoom Q&A with the cast and team of Hamilton ahead of the film's upcoming debut on Disney+.

Since Hamilton debuted on Broadway in August 2015 and made its meteoric rise to global cultural phenomenon, the hip-hop musical about American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton has been a notoriously difficult ticket to get. Even five years into its incredibly successful run, the acclaimed original cast leaving, and productions opening in Chicago, London, on top of a national tour, Hamilton has built up a reputation — aside from being a modern Broadway classic — for being virtually impossible to see. But on July 3rd, we'll all finally get to be in the room where it happened.

"We all got strapped to a rocket, at some point in 2015," Miranda said. "There is nothing like what happened to all of us while we were doing our eight shows a week. And one of the things that we realized pretty early on was two things. One, this is worthless if we don't get kids into the show so we created the education experience so that students could come see Hamilton, even though tickets were getting crazy in the resale market at all, and to the issue of accessibility. It was a challenge, it continues to be a challenge, to get folks into the theater when we serve it to 1300 people at a time at the Rogers. And so we really worked hard to be able to document this incredible company before it started changing before that first year contract ran out, and we we got it done."

To get it done, the cast and crew filmed two live performances in June 2016 — a Sunday matinee and a Tuesday evening show — and worked extra on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to film several numbers in close-ups with a Steadicam to create a unique cinematic experience for the audience, which replicates the feeling of "being in the theater and you sit in the dark with a group of people you've never met and you have this experience that is yours," director Thomas Kail said.

"My goal was to try to get inside of the show, honor the show and the stage," Kail said. "So, essentially and beautifully and consensually by the entire company, this is a show where everybody on stage, in the physical language of the show, is a huge part of the storytelling. So in film, the concept gives you agency, but it also can prevent you from seeing the whole picture, so it was a real conversation throughout as we were making the film."

In that conversation that Kail had with the camera and the stage, he couldn't catch all the little details that an audience member would see in the theater. Phillipa Soo joked to Kail, "Obviously can't catch everything, but some of those little moments that I would have — sorry, Tommy, you didn't catch it."

"But you know you got to get in close on some of these moments where you would not be able to see otherwise. Even as a cast member, you know I was seeing things that I've never seen before. So, I think that, in, in all of our tiredness, there was a lot of realness there. And that's, I think, the best way to capture people," Soo said.

But Kail said that he felt his responsibility was not to catch everything, but to "take this moment in time and serve it up and preserve it. And memorializing so that we could lower the barrier to entry and have more people have access to," Kail said.

"We have the gift of this show and the snapshot of this moment," added Miranda.

For all of the cast members, it's a snapshot that they look back on fondly, as it's been five years since they had been together on that stage. They struggled to remember the historical facts about their characters when quizzed by the Zoom moderator, but what they do remember is the "feeling" of performing a show that would change lives, Leslie Odom Jr. said.

Renee Elise Goldsberry, added, "The thing that still inspires me, even though I'm not in a show with these people at the moment, is the fact that you look around you, no matter how tired you were, no matter how scared you are, no matter how excited, whatever you were feeling, you were standing among giants. Every single day. And the best thing about them and all of their greatness is that you can't sit down, you can't talk, they lift you up. It was not possible that we would have filmed that and not have been lifted by the opportunity and by the fact that we're doing it together for forever."

Speaking of forever, what of a proper feature film adaptation of Hamilton?

"Tommy, as ever, has the right of first refusal," Miranda said, throwing the ball into Kail's court. "And it's hard to think about that because I'm just so proud of what this is. It is so rare that a piece of theatre you spent six years writing six to seven years of writing gets to be seen by the wider world in such an incredible cinematic vision, because this is a cinematic vision of a stage piece."

Hamilton debuts on Disney+ on July 3, 2020.