Steve Spielberg’s West Side Story remake is still over a year from coming out, but its cast is already singing the film praises.
“It’s been fantastic,” actor Brian d’Arcy James, 51, who plays Officer Krupke, told PEOPLE at the July 25 opening night of Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway. “We’re in the middle of shooting right now in New York City, and all I can say is it is an extraordinary experience.”
The film, out December 2020, stars Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as leading lovers Tony and Maria. Rita Moreno returns as Valentina, after winning an Oscar for playing Anita in the original 1961 adaptation of the musical by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents.
The role of Krupke, a neighborhood police officer trying to keep the story’s rival gangs in order, was first played by character actor William Bramley on stage and screen.
“It can be a little overwhelming,” d’Arcy James said of acting in such an iconic show. “But then when you think of everybody who is just doing the same thing, and redefining this experience from top down, that takes the pressure off, because ultimately you’re just making a show, like you usually do.”
And working with an iconic filmmaker like Spielberg?
“There are a lot of people, myself included, who might be intimidated by working with a titan like himself,” said d’Arcy James, who mainly acts on Broadway. “But he neutralizes that the second you meet him, because he’s kind, he’s generous and he’s just a guy who’s there to work, and he loves what he does.”
The rest of the cast is excited, too — even Moreno, 87, after working on the show nearly 60 years before.
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“Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work,” Moreno previously told PEOPLE of her casting in a statement. “And to be asked by Steven Spielberg to participate is simply thrilling! Then to work together with the brilliant playwright, Tony Kushner – what a glorious stew! I am tingling!”
As the cast continues to shoot over the summer in N.Y.C, the work is just beginning for d’Arcy James.
“I can’t say I’ve been too steeped in it yet, but all I can say is it’s been great,” he said. “I think everyone’s so intoxicated by being there, that I think it’s going to be an experience making a film that I’ll never ever forget.”