Why Andrew Garfield sings underwater in ‘Tick, Tick … Boom!’ | national news

Halfway through “Tick, Tick… ​​Boom!” Jonathan Larson grapples with writer’s block. And lose. Wrong.

“Here I am,” said Andrew Garfield, who plays the songwriter in the film, now streaming on Netflix. “The musical that I dedicated my youth to is about to be released to the public for all the producers in New York. I haven’t written a single note or a single lyric on the most important song in the show I have no electricity My best friend is mad at me, my girlfriend is not talking to me.

“And there’s only one thing I’m thinking of: swimming.”

The song that follows is “Swimming”, an unstructured flow of consciousness about what Jonathan sees, thinks and feels during his midnight workout. A track once cut from Larson’s original One Man production has become the film’s most conceptually ambitious and satisfying musical moments.

“I love this song because it’s so perfect for the moment,” Garfield said ahead of the film’s world premiere at AFI Fest. “Water, symbolically, concerns the unconscious, the deep self and the mystery. It is so lost in its own way, so it goes to the pool to push itself up and down and get rid of all of it. the obstructions in his mind until he finds this treasure of a song There is a ritual, mythical, magical aspect to this sequence that I find so beautiful.

According to J. Collis’ book “Boho Days: The Wider Works of Jonathan Larson,” “Swimming” was originally part of Larson’s presentation in September 1990, but was deleted the following year. It was never added back in the three-actor version of the musical which was reconfigured after Larson’s tragic death in 1995.

Director Lin-Manuel Miranda immediately prioritized the song after hearing Larson’s archival recording at the Library of Congress. “It’s an incredibly cinematic song – even the way the lyrics work, it’s all so visual,” said screenwriter Steven Levenson. “But he swims in a pool all the time. You can see how, on stage, it would seem static. In a movie, you can see Jon in that pool and what it does to him as he pushes himself to the pool. limit and trying to find that song. “

Transforming “Swimming” for the screen began by amplifying the guitars and drums and distorting the bass. “Most pianists who write rock music, like Elton John and Billy Joel, write very piano-centric rock music,” said executive music producer Bill Sherman, who led the film’s orchestrations with Alex Lacamoire. . Lin told us, ‘I want this to sound like the Nine Inch Nails song Jonathan never wrote. “

When it comes to vocals, Garfield focused less on trying to be exactly like Larson and more on staying true to him as a character, pulling back or girdling freely when it made sense to. the narrative plan to do so. “There was no imitation,” said Liz Caplan, Garfield’s vocal coach, who also helped Miranda prepare for a production of the musical in 2014. “It’s entirely Andrew’s voice, but to through Jonathan’s lens and how a human voice would sound as a result of those deep emotions. “

The indoor stage pool was originally chosen because of its distinct tiling design, which immediately inspired the idea that its lane dividers can turn into a musical staff. Yet it also happens to be the very pool that inspired the song’s lyrics, as it’s the same YMCA in New York’s West Village that Larson frequented on a daily basis. ““ Red stripe, green stripe, ”“ 50 feet, 60 feet, ”there are lyrics in that song that only make sense if you’re in that particular pool,” Miranda said.

The fantasy sequence was meticulously planned, using Brooks’ animated storyboards cut out and set to music – a strategy she learned from Jon M. Chu on “In the Heights.” “This number is tricky because how many strokes do you need? She explained. “You don’t want to just go back to the same plan. He swims something like forty laps; if we only film him a few times, you’ll never get that feeling of the pressure going up, and the real amount of effort he puts in to get everything out of his body, calm his mind enough, and listen to the song. “

The team got creative with camera angles, courtesy of underwater camera operator Sean Gilbert, who also collaborated with Brooks on the “In the Heights” pool scene. Took three days to film, and could have taken longer if Garfield hadn’t swam everything himself. The actor has been standing still since childhood; his father, Richard Garfield, is the head coach of the prestigious Guildford City Swim Club in the United Kingdom. “I swear to you that he is a Michael Phelps level swimmer is just a fluke,” said Miranda. “Once he started, the stuntman looked at me and said, ‘I can’t swim that fast.'”

Garfield’s dad was supposed to be in the scene with him, as swimmer Jon juts out in frustration (“Too slow, touch his heel, move!” Jon sings on screen). However, he was unable to participate due to the postponement of the COVID filming. “He loves the mosaics in the swimming pools so he was disappointed and very jealous,” Garfield said. “But it was so much fun because I was hanging out in the pool all day, singing on the track underwater,” Garfield said.

The sequence visually reproduces the song’s lyrics with faithful precision, edited together at an urgent and frantic beat. He resolves himself with phrases from another number, “Come to Your Senses”, as if the notes of that missing song materialize in front of him. This large overhead display was impossible to achieve in such a small space with a low roof, so the shot was tacked “so that we could artificially zoom in to the distance we need so the pool could read staff paper. “said Miranda.

All the effort was worth it for the director, who knows firsthand how difficult a good song can be to write, and that “Eureka!” feel when it finally subsides. “I’ve had this experience maybe two or three times in my life,” said the creator of “Hamilton”. “One of them was ‘Wait for it’. I had done my research on [Aaron] Burr and I had a chord progression in my head and then the whole chorus came in at once as I got on the A train to Williamsburg for my friend Jacob’s birthday party, which is a bad time. I remember going to that party, having a sip of beer and saying, ‘Happy birthday! I have to go!’

“That feeling when inspiration strikes and a song comes in – it’s a really hard thing to describe to people,” he continued. “You go into this rigorous process of trying to catch all the things that are floating in the air and in your mind, and then you are struck by love at first sight, like the three cherries lined up in the slot machine. is what Jonathan wrote about “Swimming.” As a fellow songwriter, I wanted to honor that. ”

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