The highly anticipated film adaptation makes a series of firsts (and seconds). The beloved Broadway musical about rival street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, has already been made into a movie that won 10 Academy Awards in 1962, including Best Picture. Spielberg’s take on the “Romeo & Juliet”-inspired story will be the acclaimed director’s first musical, and he hand-picked newcomer Rachel Zegler to play lead love interest Maria opposite Ansel Elgort as Tony. Spielberg has also teamed up again with frequent collaborator and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Tony Kushner, with whom he had previously worked on “Munich” and “Lincoln.”
The “West Side Story” ensemble cast includes Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Corey Stoll, and Brian d’Arcy James. Best Supporting Actress winner Rita Moreno will return in the role of Valentina. Spielberg was adamant that only Hispanic performers play Hispanic characters in the film; according to the director, 20 out of the 33 Puerto Rican characters are “specifically Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent.”
This updated “West Side Story” may still be set in the late 1950s, but over a half-century after the initial film’s release, Spielberg is looking to reflect the modern era with this timeless love story. “This story is not only a product of its time, but that time has returned, and it’s returned with a kind of social fury,” Spielberg explained to Vanity Fair in 2020. “I really wanted to tell that Puerto Rican, Nuyorican experience of basically the migration to this country and the struggle to make a living, and to have children, and to battle against the obstacles of xenophobia and racial prejudice.”
Get all the details about Spielberg’s “West Side Story” ahead of its December 10 theatrical release below.