Perhaps the most highly anticipated remake in recent years, "West Side Story" is slated to hit movie theaters later this year.
The original West Side Story film adaptation, released in 1961, has held a special place in many a heart for decades. From the incredible performance given by Natalie Wood as Maria, to Leonard Bernstein’s gorgeous, unforgettable score, to the heart-wrenching story of two star-crossed lovers (à la Romeo and Juliet), the film was a hard one to forget.
Which is why when, in 2018, an open casting call for a remake of the beloved story was released, there was a mix of intrigue, skepticism, and excitement. After all, it would be hard to top the original film. But the open casting call hinted at the possibility of an unknown talent getting the big break of their dreams. Plus, is there really such a thing as too much West Side Story?
After the first trailer dropped on Oscar Sunday, everyone got excited all over again. Here’s what we know so far about the long-awaited remake of West Side Story.
It's Been in Development for Several Years Already
While the film’s screenplay was being written in 2017 by Tony Kushner, most notable for having written the screenplay for Lincoln (2012), the initial rumblings of the remake started all the way back in 2014, when Steven Spielberg voiced his desire to direct a remake of the film. Thus, the acquiring of rights slowly began.
Fast forward to 2018, and Spielberg was officially on board to direct the film. By the end of the year, pre-production was well underway and the casting process had begun. Finally, in 2019, filming took place in New York and New Jersey from August through September.
We’re all well-aware by now that Steven Spielberg directed the new West Side Story — adding to the excitement surrounding the movie — but who else helped make the retelling of the story possible?
Starring in the film as Tony, our male protagonist, is Ansel Elgort, best known for The Fault in Our Stars and Baby Driver. As Maria, our female protagonist, is newcomer Rachel Zegler. Prior to the film, Zegler had starred in multiple musicals at her high school, but West Side Story is her first feature film.
Along with them, Broadway star Mike Faist of Dear Evan Hansen will star as Riff, David Alvarez of Broadway’s Billy Elliot the Musical will take on the role of Bernardo, and Ariana DeBose of Broadway’s Hamilton stars as Anita. And as a treat for fans of the original West Side Story film, Rita Moreno, who starred as Anita in 1961, will have a small role in the newest adaptation.
Gustavo Dudamel, the beloved music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was in charge of conducting the orchestra performing the film’s soundtrack.
Be Ready for a Wait
The film was originally set to release December 18, 2020 — but, like numerous other highly-anticipated films that were slated to come out in 2020, the release date was pushed back so as not to be overshadowed by COVID-19. As of now, the film’s new release date is set for December 10, 2021 — falling right in line with the original West Side Story’s 60th anniversary.
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