Even though he only learned of his Academy Award nomination a few hours ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer of best original song nominee “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, already knows who his date to the Oscars will be: “My mom called dibs when I was a little kid,” he says with a laugh.
As a longtime lover of the telecast, Miranda is almost as excited about going to the Feb. 26 ceremony as he is about being nominated. “It’s so crazy, dude! I’m an Academy Awards dork. I’d cry at the Chuck Workman montages. I’d wait for them to shout out to Bill Conti when he was conducting. I’d memorize Billy Crystal’s monologues that he used to write with Marc Shaiman, who I’m working on with Mary Poppins Returns right now, so to get to go to that party is really a great thrill.”
“How Far I’ll Go” is one of several tunes Miranda wrote (many of them with Grammy-winning composer Mark Mancina and Somoan Opetaia Foa’i) for the Disney picture, which is also up for a best animated feature Oscar. To get into the song’s mindset of a teenager’s sense of yearning and adventure, he revisited his childhood bedroom and his own desires to expand beyond Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood.
“That notion of staring at the horizon and wanting to know what’s on the other side of that, that’s a universal feeling, especially when you’re a teenager and everything’s a possibility and the distance between you and your dreams is like an enormous gulf,” he said. “That’s what I tried to tap into.”
Should he win, the Hamilton creator will become the youngest member of the EGOT club (recipients of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), replacing Robert Lopez, who completed his quartet in 2014 with a best original song win for Frozen’s “Let It Go.” At 41, Lopez is four years older than Miranda, but, coincidentally, both went to Hunter College High School — and Miranda has delighted in watching Lopez’s achievements.
However, he stresses he can’t even think about snagging the O, after already securing the E,G, and T. “I’m a firm believer in once you start chasing awards, they go away. I think you can tell it in someone’s work when they’re like, ‘Alright, this is Oscar bait,’ and it smells like it, as opposed to just making the thing you’re passionate about and trying to make the best thing possible.”