‘West Side Story’: Ariana DeBose Is Steven Spielberg’s Anita in First Look Photo

Disney has found its Anita, the scene-stealing character originated by Rita Moreno.
"West Side Story"
"West Side Story"

Walt Disney Studios has debuted the first official look at the woman playing Anita in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” played by newcomer Ariana DeBose. Funny and strong-willed, Anita is a scene-stealing supporting character who sings the classic song “America.” The role was originally played onscreen by Rita Moreno in Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ 1961 “West Side Story” movie. Moreno, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work as Anita, is serving as one of the film’s executive producers. The project, based on the iconic Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim musical of the same name, casts “Baby Driver” star Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler as star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, respectively.

The rest of the supporting cast includes Ana Isabelle as Rosalia, Corey Stoll as Lieutenant Schrank, Brian d’Arcy James as Officer Krupke, Curtiss Cook as Abe, and Rita Moreno as Valentina. Wise and Robbins’ film won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is widely considered one of the best movie musicals ever made. Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation was adapted from the musical by his “Munich” and “Lincoln” scribe Tony Kushner.

The film’s music team includes conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who will helm the recording of Bernstein’s iconic score, and Academy Award-nominated composer and conductor David Newman (“Anastasia”), who will be arranging the score for the new adaptation. Tony-winning composer Jeanine Tesori (“Fun Home” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie”) will be working with the cast on vocals, while Matt Sullivan (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Chicago”) will oversee the project as executive music producer for the film.

“West Side Story” marks the first movie musical of both Spielberg and Elgort’s careers. The director was last in theaters with back-to-back releases “The Post” and “Ready Player One,” the former of which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Elgort’s last major release was Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver,” although he did appear in 2018 indies “Jonathan” and “Billionaire Boys Club.” Next up for the actor is this fall’s “The Goldfinch.”

Last month, the studio released a photo featuring Elgort and Zegler as the two star-crossed lovers surrounded by the film’s rival gangs, the Sharks and the Jets. Disney will release Spielberg’s “West Side Story” in theaters December 18, 2020.

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