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Film News Roundup: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘In the Heights’ Casts Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera

In today’s film news roundup, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Aaron Eckhart get major roles, Donna Langley is a commencement speaker, and the Brittania Awards are set for Oct. 25.


Leslie Grace and Melissa Barrera have been cast for the feature adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” from “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu.

Grace and Barrera join the previously announced Corey Hawkins and Anthony Ramos. Warner Bros. has set a June 26, 2020 release date for “In the Heights,” which won the 2008 Tony Award for best musical.

Grace will play the role of Nina Rosario. She’s been nominated for a Latin Grammy for the single “Como Duele el Silencio,” the album “Lloviendo Estrellas,” and her 2013 self-titled release. Barerra has been cast as Vanessa. She stars on Starz’ Latinx series “Vida,” which is heading into its second season in May.

“In the Heights” is set in Washington Heights in New York City and focuses on a bodega owner who’s closing his store and retiring to the Dominican Republic after inheriting his grandmother’s fortune. Miranda wrote the music and lyrics for the production and starred in the show’s lead role, earning him a nomination for the Tony Award for best actor in a musical. Miranda followed up “In the Heights” by creating the smash hit “Hamilton,” which won 11 Tony awards in 2015.


Popular on Variety

Aaron Eckhart has signed on as the lead in the conspiracy/thriller “Wander” with April Mullen directing from a screenplay by Tim Doiron.

Eckhart will play a mentally unstable private investigator, who is hired to probe a suspicious death in the small town of Wander and becomes convinced the case is linked to the same ‘conspiracy cover up’ that caused the death of his daughter.

Production is set for a June start, with shooting entirely in New Mexico. Mullen will produce alongside Andre Relis of VMI Worldwide and Chad A. Verdi of Verdi Productions. VMI Worldwide holds worldwide rights for the film and will introduce the picture to buyers at the Cannes Film Festival.


Donna Langley, chairman of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, will deliver the USC School of Cinematic Arts commencement address.

Screenwriter and producer Nahnatchka Khan (“Fresh Off the Boat,” “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23”) will receive the Mary Pickford Alumni Award at the graduation ceremony held on May 10 at the Shrine Auditorium.

Past commencement speakers at the School of Cinematic Arts include Paul Feig, Jim Gianopulos, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barry Meyer, Ron Meyer, Sidney Poitier, Sumner Redstone, Jay Roach, Stacey Sher and Laura Ziskin.


The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles (BAFTA Los Angeles) has set Oct. 25 as the date for this year’s British Academy Britannia Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The Britannia Awards is BAFTA’s biggest event outside of the U.K. The ceremony recognizes the work of British talent and international colleagues.

BritBox will again stream the Britannia Awards live to U.S. audiences as part of a multi-year partnership between BAFTA Los Angeles and the subscription service from BBC Studios and ITV.

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