After years of making it known that he would love to tackle a West Side Story remake, director Steven Spielberg is finally making it happen. West Side Story was a musical adaptation on one of William Shakespeare's most popular plays, Romeo & Juliet. The musical made its Broadway debut in 1957 with a score from famed composer Leonard Bernstein, but it wasn't until a few years later that the story truly started to shine.
In 1961, the musical was adapted into a feature-length film starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn. The West Side Story movie was a smashing success, going on to earn 10 Academy Award nominations at the 1962 Oscars. Both the musical and the movie are responsible for introducing us to the world of rival gangs the Jets and the Sharks and the teenage lovers at the heart of the conflict, Tony and Maria.
Filming on Spielberg's West Side Story got underway in June 2019, with a first-look photo of Tony, Maria, the Jets, and the Sharks released to commemorate the occasion. With new details about the film dwindling for a few months, let's take a look at all of the details which have been confirmed, including the release date, cast, and expected trailer .
West Side Story Release Date
West Side Story releases on December 18, 2020. This is a prime spot for a film of this caliber, arriving smack-dab at the peak of the holiday movie season, guaranteeing families will make time to see it in addition to longtime fans and curious newcomers to the world of West Side Story.
December has been proven to be a successful month for movie musicals, not only when it comes to crushing it at the box office but also for garnering awards season attention. In the last decade alone, this has been the favored month if a studio has a big budget musical on its hands. If you're not convinced it's worth reminding you of past December movie musical triumphs, like The Greatest Showman (2017), La La Land (2016), Into the Woods (2014), and Les Miserables (2012).
West Side Story Director
As previously mentioned, Steven Spielberg will be directing West Side Story. This will be Spielberg's first time directing a musical for the big screen - well, really it's his first time doing it, full stop. He's shown interest for years in directing a new West Side Story. So, just because Spielberg is going into unfamiliar territory for the first time in years, we should by no means assume he's out of his depth.
Even a passing familiarity with Spielberg's oeuvre as a director proves he's a director who is more than experienced at handling films that are sweeping in scope, with large casts and imaginative stories at their core. West Side Story is Spielberg's follow-up to another similarly big, lush, epic, nostalgia-driven film, 2018's Ready Player One. This is the director who helped bring the Indiana Jones film franchise to life, as well as Jaws, Hook, Jurassic Park, and more. Spielberg knows how to make an adventure come to life on screen and he knows how to infuse very real, tangible human emotion into a film as well. If anything, West Side Story could become another feather in Spielberg's cap, proof he's a director equipped to bring any story in any genre into its full glory.
West Side Story Cast
West Side Story features a talented cast hailing from a variety of corners in the entertainment world. Open casting calls were reported as early as spring 2018, with a focus on casting for the key characters of Tony, Maria, Anita, Bernardo, and Riff. In October 2018, the first confirmed cast member was Baby Driver star Ansel Elgort, who secured the male lead role of Tony. By January 2019, it was confirmed then-17-year-old Rachel Zegler had landed the female lead role of Maria. This will be Zegler's feature film debut, although she has been performing in musicals for most of her life, making her a valuable, fresh face in the cast.
Shortly after, the supporting cast was filled out. In March, House of Cards alum and seasoned Broadway actor Corey Stoll was confirmed for Lieutenant Schrank and Spotlight actor and fellow Broadway vet, Brian d'Arcy James, was confirmed to play Officer Krupke. The roles of Anita, Bernardo, and Riff, respectively, went to theatre actors Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, and Mike Faist. Arguably the best casting news came in shortly after Elgort signing on. In November 2018, it was announced Rita Moreno, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Anita in the 1961 film, would return for the new West Side Story. Moreno's role of Valentina will reportedly be original but based off of a character from the musical, Doc, the owner of the shop where Tony works.
West Side Story Plot
An update on William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story follows star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. The teenagers come from different communities living on the Upper West Side in New York in the 1950s. Tony is a young white man who used to be a member of a gang known as the Jets. Although he's left the gang, he is still close friends with the Jets leader, Riff. Maria lives in the Puerto Rican section of the Upper West Side and is the sister of Bernardo, the leader of a gang known as the Sharks. The Jets and the Sharks? They're not friends and it's their rivalry which threatens Tony and Maria's relationship.
West Side Story Soundtrack
This is a musical, after all, so what are the plans for West Side Story's music? The original Leonard Bernstein score will remain intact, which means songs like "Gee Officer Krupke", "In America", and "I Feel Pretty" will absolutely be performed. The film's score will be handled by Gustavo Dudamel, the music director of the L.A. Philharmonic. There's no word on whether any new songs will be written specifically for this new version of the music.
Also unknown is if any unconventional approaches to filming the musical performances will be taken. Will it go the way of Tom Hooper's Les Miserables and feature all of the cast members performing live with musical backing added in? Or will there be a more traditional structure (record it in a studio, lip-sync to it while filming, add in the track in post)? There's been no specific mention of how this will be handled, so it's safe to assume that Spielberg and Co. will be opting for the former rather than the latter. Hopefully more news - or even a preview - of the music will be released outside of a teaser or full-length trailer in the coming months so prospective audiences know what they're in for.
West Side Story Trailer
A West Side Story trailer has not been released yet. Since the movie musical is due for release during the peak of holiday movie season in 2020, a full-length trailer will likely not be released until spring or early summer 2020. However, this is a unique film in that it's being helmed by Spielberg, and it's another adaptation of a beloved musical which holds a special place in musical history. Given this, it wouldn't be out of the question to expect a first-look teaser to arrive in late November or December 2019 as a way of building up excitement one year out from its intended release.
- West Side Story (2020) release date: Dec 18, 2020