One of the most iconic movie musicals of all time is getting a remake – with an industry heavyweight at its helm. Yup, Steven Spielberg is taking on West Side Story with a brand new cast retelling the fraught love story between Tony and Maria.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new film…
Spielberg confirmed earlier this year that his reinvention of West Side Story will be released in the US on the 18th December 2020. UK release is expected on the same day.
What is West Side Story about?
A forbidden love-story between Tony and Maria, this adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet gives the original story a musical twist. Set in 1950s America, West Side Story sees rival gangs the ‘Sharks’ and the ‘Jets’ compete for territory on the streets. It just so happens that Tony is a member of the Jets, and Maria is the younger sister of the Sharks leader Bernardo.
Attempting to hide their romance, Maria and Tony begin to meet in secret, unaware of the heart-break that lies ahead.
The first cast member to be announced was Hollywood star Ansel Elgort. After breakout roles in the Divergent series and The Fault in Our Stars, Elgort was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in Baby Driver (2017) and will be playing the lead-role of Tony in West Side Story. He has big boots to fill, following in the footsteps of Larry Kert who took on the role in the 1957 Broadway musical, and Richard Beymer who played Tony in the 1961 film adaptation.
If you have any concerns about Elgort’s singing voice, this riff-off with James Corden and Jamie Foxx on The Late Late Show should put you at ease (listen from around 8:00)…
Playing Tony’s lover Maria is teenager Rachel Zegler. The Columbian-American singer-songwriter originates from New Jersey and had no previous screen credits prior to her casting. She was scouted for the film after posting a video of herself singing ‘I Feel Pretty’ from the musical. Zegler already had a large social media following her cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Shallow’ (from A Star is Born), which she posted on YouTube. She’s also already played Maria in a school production of West Side Story.
Rita Moreno – who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing the part of Anita in the 1961 adaptation – has also been cast in the remake. Screenwriter Tony Kushner has created a new role for her – a part similar to Doc in the 1961 musical, under the new name of Valentina.
Smaller roles have been given to some familiar faces, such as Corey Stoll (House of Cards, Ant-Man) who will be playing Lieutenant Schrank in the new movie, while Tony-nominated Mike Faist, who rose to fame as Connor Murphy in the hit-musical Dear Evan Hansen, stars as leader of the Jets, Riff.
Oscar, Bafta, Golden Globe, and Emmy Award-winner Steven Spielberg! The director has said the movie will add a new perspective to the story, in comparison to the original Broadway musical from 1957 and the 1961 film.
Spielberg will be producing the film as well as directing it, alongside Kevin McCollum and Kristie Macosko Krieger.
Spielberg reportedly took great care in the casting of the new Sharks and Jets members – even recruiting the famous Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler. She originally became ‘one to watch’ after performing moving contemporary dance routines in many of Sia’s music videos.
Maddie Ziegler (R) with Sia
When does filming on the West Side Story remake start?
Filming is rumoured to be starting in summer 2019, but there is no exact date as of yet.
Will the new West Side Story movie feature songs from the original musical?
It has been confirmed that Ansel Elgort will perform the songs Maria, Somewhere, One Hand, One Heart, and Tonight in the remake – so die-hard fans can rest assured their the original music is being given pride of place. “No one will leave the movie without hearing all the classic songs,” said screenwriter Kushner who also confirmed he has been working with original lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
No confirmation yet on whether Spielberg’s version will contain any new songs…
Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer in West Side Story (1961)
What are the previous versions of West Side Story?
The collective that is Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents created the musical together for Broadway in 1957. It won two awards at the Tony Awards in 1958 for choreography and set-design, and it was nominated for Best Musical only to lose out to the debut of The Music Man.
The film version was released in 1961 and amplified the success of the story. Featuring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as Maria and Tony, the movie took home a total of ten Oscars at the Academy Awards in 1962, including Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Direction and Best Picture.