The first image of Ariana DeBose as Anita in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story has been released. Some five years after Spielberg initially expressed his interest in re-adapting the classic stage musical for the big screen, the legendary director has finally started production on his version of West Side Story. The film is being written by Spielberg's Munich and Lincoln collaborator, Tony Kushner, and is said to hew closer to the original 1957 Broadway show than the Best Picture-winning 1961 movie adaptation. But at the same time, it will still include all the beloved musical numbers that people know from the '61 film.
About a month after receiving a 2020 release date, West Side Story officially began filming back in mid-June. To commemorate the occasion, Spielberg's production company Amblin released a photo that revealed cast members like Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler (who play the star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria) in costume. Amblin has since unveiled a second image that offers the first-look at another key player in the movie.
The character in question is Anita, who's being played by DeBose in Spielberg's version of West Side Story. You can check out the first photo of DeBose in the role, below.
DeBose is a relative newcomer to the big screen, but has a decorated history in musical theater. In addition to being part of the ensemble for the Broadway sensation Hamilton back in 2015, DeBose has appeared in the Bring It On Broadway musical and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical over the last ten years. Anita, of course, is the young woman in West Side Story who's not Maria's confidante, but also dating her older brother Bernardo, the leader of the Puerto Rican Sharks street gang. Rita Moreno won an Oscar for playing Anita in the 1961 film version and will actually costar in Spielberg's movie as Valentina, the owner of the shop where Tony works.
Considering that the 1961 adaptation has long been celebrated for its bold color palette (among other things), it's encouraging to see Anita wearing a similarly vibrant yellow costume in this new photo. Spielberg's more recent films have tended to be relatively muted in terms of their colors, so hopefully he will change things up a bit with his first-ever musical. The '61 movie is certainly dated in some unflattering ways, but its dynamic visuals and spirited performances are still as terrific as they ever were. With Spielberg directing and talents like DeBose filling out the cast, though, there's a fair chance that the new West Side Story will be able to match it in those respects.
- West Side Story (2020) release date: Dec 18, 2020