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20 May 2019, 11:50 | Updated: 20 May 2019, 12:06
West Side Story, the 1961 musical film about rival gangs in New York City, is soon to be remade and directed by Steven Spielberg.
West Side Story, originally a 1957 Broadway musical, is being remade into a film by 20th Century Fox.
The remake will be directed by Steven Spielberg, with the script adapted by Tony Award winner (and Lincoln screenwriter) Tony Kushner. The remake will represent Spielberg’s first musical project in his lengthy career.
West Side Story sets the love story of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet against a backdrop of gang culture in 1950s New York. When Jets gang member Tony falls for Maria, the sister of the leader of the Sharks, tensions rise and disaster ensues.
Steven Spielberg has cast 17-year-old high school student Rachel Zegler as Maria. The newcomer will make her film debut opposite American actor Ansel Elgort, who will play Tony.
Award-winning Broadway actress Ariana DeBose has been cast as Anita and David Alvarez as Bernardo, Maria’s brother and the leader of the Sharks.
Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her performance as Anita in the original film, will appear in the remake as new character Valentina, despite previously saying she was ‘nervous’ about Spielberg’s remake. Moreno will also be an executive producer on the film.
“When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors,” Spielberg said. “I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community. I am in awe of the sheer force of the talent of these young performers, and I believe they’ll bring a new and electrifying energy to a magnificent musical that’s more relevant than ever.”
The casting call for the remake, which asked for solely Latinx actors, received 30,000 submissions. Zegler saw the call on Twitter and submitted a video of herself singing ‘Tonight’ and ‘Me Siento Hermosa’ (‘I Feel Pretty’).
“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” said Zegler. “‘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.”
The soundtrack, composed by the late Leonard Bernstein, contains a host of timeless songs including ‘Maria’, ‘Tonight’, ‘America’, ‘Somewhere’, ‘I Feel Pretty’ and ‘Gee Officer Krupke’.
The remake is expected to include all the original Bernstein songs, as well as some of the iconic dance numbers from the original film.
The score will be conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, the music director of the L.A. Philharmonic. The Venezuelan-born conductor earned the Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society from the Longy School of Music.
In the original 1961 film, Maria was played by Natalie Wood and Tony by Richard Beymer, with Rita Moreno and George Chakiris starring as Anita and Bernardo.
West Side Story is set for release on 18 December 2020.