Hollywood is having a real revival moment, but this is one remake we can get behind: the Sharks and the Jets are heading back to the big screen, this time, in an adaptation of West Side Story from director Steven Spielberg, who has been in love with the story since he was a child.
“Our entire home was festooned with classical musical albums, and I grew up surrounded by classical music. West Side Story was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed into the home. I absconded with it—this was the cast album from the 1957 Broadway musical—and just fell completely in love with it as a kid. West Side Story has been that one haunting temptation that I have finally given in to,” he said.
Here's what we know about the film so far:
West Side Story will premiere in December of 2020.
Right around Christmastime, expect to see the new adaptation in theaters. Collider reports that the film will be released on December 18, 2020.
The production has started filming in NYC.
Photographers caught David Alvarez (the movie's Bernardo) and Ariana DeBose (who will play Anita) shooting a dance sequence in Harlem in July.
According to Page Six, specifically, the movie had plans to shoot in 2019 "outside apartments on 131st Street between Fifth and Lenox avenues in mid-July."
Here are the first photos from the film:
See a sneak peek of Tony, Maria, and the Sharks and the Jets below:
And here's your first look at Ariana DeBose as Anita:
Maria will be played by a relative unknown.
Rachel Zegler, a high school student from New Jersey will play the iconic role. Broadway alums DeBose and David Alvarez will play Anita and Bernardo, and Josh Andrés Rivera will play Chino.
In early 2018, a casting call went out. "Must be able to sing," it reportedly read. "Dance experience a plus."
It also indicated they are looking for to cast a caucasian actor as Tony, Latina actresses as Maria and Anita, and a Latino actor as Bernardo, all between the ages of 15 and 25. This marks a much-needed change from the original film, in which Natalie Wood, an actress of Russian descent, played Maria.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) January 26, 2018
“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” Zegler said. "West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community."
Ansel Elgort will star as Tony.
In October of 2018, the Hollywood Reporter confirmed the news that Ansel will play the tragic lead role. The outlet also reports that production is slated to start this summer.
Dance Mom star Maddie Ziegler will play a member of the Jets.
Other cast members include Broadway star Mike Faist, who will play Riff, and dancer Ana Isabelle, who will play Rosalia.
Rita Moreno will return to the story in a new role.
Moreno, who won an Oscar for her performance as Anita in the 1961 film, will play a new character in Spielberg's adaptation. "Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work," she told Deadline. "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!"
She'll be taking on the role of Valentina, which Variety describes as "a remade version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works."
“I simply cannot wait to get on set to work with this group of young actors,” Moreno said. “What an ensemble, and I look forward to passing the baton to this next generation of Sharks!”
She also recently shared some thoughts on the rough draft of the script. “I’ve only read a very, very rough [version] of the script,” Moreno said in an interview with Sirius XM. “And it’s very rough, meaning tons of stuff is gonna be changed. For instance, [writer] Tony [Kushner] did the Spanish parts with his dictionary Spanish, which was horrific.”
Moreno later shared that she asked Spielberg about it.
"In our conversation on the phone ... I said, ‘Listen, Steven, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the Spanish in the script is not terrific."
Fortunately, he assured her that changes would be made. Listen to that whole interview below:
She also offered some invaluable direction to the actors who play the sharks. Per Vanity Fair:
For one scene, in which the cops arrive to break up a rumble, Moreno thought that the dancers playing the Sharks didn’t quite appreciate how much worse the situation would be for the Puerto Rican boys. “I was using bad language and all that, and I said, ‘You are fucked! You are fucked if they catch you! You don’t have a chance,’” she says. “And they’re all looking at me with big beautiful brown eyes. I said, ‘Talk to each other before you do the scene again! Scare each other!’”
It has some serious source material to live up to.
Originally a 1957 musical with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, with the action taking place in New York City instead of fair Verona.
Rival gangs the Sharks (made up of Puerto Rican immigrants) and the Jets (whose members are white) take the place of the Capulets and Montagues. Tony, a founder of the Jets, plays the Romeo role, falling in love with Maria, sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks.
The 1961 film version co-directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris, and won ten Academy Awards.
Here's a taste of that version:
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