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Lin-Manuel Miranda Blasts Racist ‘Little Mermaid’ Trolls: ‘Halle Bailey Is Perfect for the Part’

Lin-Manuel Miranda Halle Bailey
Getty Images/ Greg Swales for Variety

Welcome to this week’s “Just for Variety.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda has a message to the trolls who have targeted their hate at Halle Bailey, star of the live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” — watch Brandy in “Cinderella.” “I’m old enough to remember that being a game changer for my generation,” Miranda told me during a Zoom chat from the L’Attitude conference in San Diego, where he was making an appearance with American Express to support Latino small business owners. “And Rob Marshall was the choreographer on that and is now the director of the movie. I’m really thrilled by that symmetry.”

Besides, Miranda thinks the positivity and excitement around the new film far outweigh the negativity. Just take a look at the sneak peek of Bailey singing a snippet of “Part of Your World,” which racked up 104 million global views within days of its debut at the D23 Expo. “I’m not interested in giving them any oxygen because I know the lives that are going to be changed. Halle is perfect for the part,” said the Tony winner, who wrote four songs for the movie with composer Alan Menken. “She is going to blow them away. If that’s the thing that makes you mad, then stay mad. But examine your choices.”

In San Diego, Miranda spoke to conference-goers about Drama Book Shop, the century-old bookstore that he bought about four years ago along with director Thomas Kail, producer Jeffrey Seller and theater owner James L. Nederlander. Miranda and Kail first worked on “In the Heights” in the original store’s basement 20 years ago. “The store’s success is inextricably tied to the health of the theater community,” Miranda said. “When Broadway has a good week, we have a good week. When the Omicron wave shuts down shows and cancels performances, we have a bad week. When theater-goers come to New York to see a show, they stop at the Drama Book Shop. That’s been kind of an amazing revelation to me.”

He praises American Express for its ongoing support of Latino-owned businesses. “My first show, ‘In the Heights,’ is about those businesses and the fact that they’re Latino-owned and family-owned, and they make my neighborhood special. I really believe that — I still live in the neighborhood,” Miranda says. “I was happy to partner with Amex on those causes. And I’ve been happy to see them really step up in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, supporting us when we took ‘Hamilton’ there to raise money for arts organizations, supporting local businesses on the island. They’re stepping up again in the wake of Hurricane Fiona as we all have to.”

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Feb. 19, 2021 – Actor Anthony Mackie photographed in the Tremé District of New Orleans. William Widmer for Variety

Anthony Mackie insists he doesn’t know if he’ll make an appearance as Captain America in “Thunderbolts,” the Marvel Studios film set to star Florence Pugh, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sebastian Stan, David Harbour and Wyatt Russell. “I have no idea,” he told me while promoting his new partnership with roofing manufacturer GAF to help residents of his hometown of New Orleans whose roofs were damaged by natural disasters. “You know how it works. They call you the week before and are like, ‘We own your ass. Come get in the movie.’”

We do know that Mackie will star in “Captain America: New World Order.” The plot is under wraps, but Mackie says he’s been talking with screenwriter Malcolm Spellman. “We’ve talked and communicated about what we want that story to be going forward and how it’ll fit in his new Marvel universe,” Mackie explained. “You definitely get the idea of collaboration, but you don’t get to tell them what it’s going to be and how it’s going to be.”

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, from left: Sean Connery, Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, 1989. ©Paramount Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Col

“Indiana Jones” producer Frank Marshall says he wasn’t surprised that Harrison Ford got a bit emotional while promoting the fifth installment of the franchise onstage at D23. “We all got emotional,” Marshall told me at the “Redeem Team” premiere. “We’ve been together for 40 years, and we feel like we made a really good movie. You look back at all the movies and you get emotional, because that’s your life and your career. He’s been that character for so long.”

Will we see an “Indiana Jones 6”? “I don’t know,” Marshall said. “When we signed up, we signed up for three movies, so the next two were all icing on the cake.

Billy Reid at Platform in Culver City.

Congrats to designer Billy Reid! He just opened his first Los Angeles outpost, a pop-up at Platform in Culver City. I visited with Reid at the store last week. He reminisced about Matthew McConaughey being the first celeb he dressed back in 1998. At the time, Reid had just started his business with one employee, who happened to be from the same Texas town as the actor. “He was like, ‘I could get us in touch with Matthew,’” Reid recalled. “We sent him a box of clothes and a nice note. The next thing you knew, Matthew was doing a junket, and he wore one of my shirts in almost all of the interviews.” I’ll have more from Reid later this week about his new capsule collection inspired by the Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar (Margo Price is one of the faces of the campaign) and his big dream to get his clothes on Kris Kristofferson.