West Side Story remake by Steven Spielberg: 2020 UK release date, cast and soundtrack revealed

19 June 2019, 12:48 | Updated: 19 July 2019, 08:53

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Something’s coming... ‘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 former Jets member Tony falls for Maria, the sister of the leader of rival gang the Sharks, tensions rise and disaster ensues.

Who has been cast in the West Side Story remake?

Steven Spielberg has cast 18-year-old singer-songwriter Rachel Zegler as Maria. The newcomer will make her film debut opposite Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver), 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.

Plus, Maddie Ziegler, who is known for dancing in Sia’s music videos, will join the cast as a Jet.

“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.”

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Who will write the soundtrack to West Side Story?

The soundtrack, composed by the late Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, 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. There is no word yet on whether the film will include any new songs.

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.

Who was Marni Nixon, the 'ghost singer' behind Hollywood's actresses?

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.

Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood starred in the 1961 film
Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood starred in the 1961 film. Picture: Getty

What is the release date for West Side Story?

West Side Story is set for release on 18 December 2020.