Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ Returns to Cinemas, 60 Years After the Original

The 93rd Academy Awards were cause for plenty of celebration, not least because the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s 2021 adaptation of West Side Story debuted during the ceremony.

Originating as a Broadway musical in 1957, West Side Story first became a movie in 1961 — which went on to win ten Oscars.

Like so many other movies, West Side Story was originally intended to premiere in 2020 but had its release pushed back due to COVID. Now, fans of the classic musical can look forward to watching Spielberg’s iteration on December 20th, 2021.

Loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is the tale of two rival street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, on New York’s Upper West Side in the 1950s.

Tony, a member of the Jets, and Maria, from the Sharks, fall in love and, like Shakespeare’s tragic starred crossed lovers, pursue an ill-fated romance. Placing a modern twist on the dynamic, West Side Story was a commentary on the racism and prejudice experienced by immigrants — making now the perfect time for the story to be revisited.

The original version of the film starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris, with Morena returning for the remake in the reimagined role of Valentina.

The new version of the film also stars newcomer Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort as Maria and Tony.

Elgort is perhaps best known for his role in Baby Driver, for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, but Zegler’s story is slightly less traditional.

At the time of her casting, Zegler was a 17-year-old high school student from New Jersey. Responding to an open casting call posted by Spielberg on social media, Zegler submitted clips of herself singing Tonight and I Feel Pretty from the musical’s soundtrack. She was chosen for the role out of 30,000 people with West Side Story marking her feature film debut.

Now 20, Zegler went viral in 2018 after posting a video of herself singing Shallow from A Star Is Born on Twitter — a clip that has since been viewed over 11 million times.

Rounding out the cast are Ariana DeBose as Anita — played by Oscar-winner Rita Moreno in the original film, David Alvarez as Bernardo, and Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino. Additional cast members include mike Faist as Riff, Ana Isabelle as Rosalia, Corey Stoll as Police Lieutenant Schrank, Brian d’Arcy James as Police Sergeant Krupke, and Maddie Ziegler as Velma.

In an interview with Deadline, 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.”

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