For years now, Steven Spielberg has been talking about a possible remake of the popular classic West Side Story. He is finally finishing up work on the project, after the relative success of his 2018 sci-fi project Ready Player One which addressed many of the issues faced by the modern technological world. According to Spielberg, this remake is closer to the famous 1957 Broadway than to Robert Wise’s iconic 1961 film adaptation.
Back in 2014, Spielberg revealed his love for the source material, explaining: “West Side Story is one of my favourite Broadway musicals and one of the greatest pieces of musical literature, my goodness, one of the greatest scores and some of the greatest lyrics ever written for a musical so just let me put it this way: it’s on my mind.”
Starring Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort, West Side Story is a retelling of William Shakespeare’s timeless tale of Romeo and Juliet which is set in New York during the 1950s. Although the project was in the making since 2014, the plans are finally coming to fruition after the release date had been delayed by Disney due to the pandemic.
In an interview last year, Spielberg said: “West Side Story was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed into the home. I absconded with it —this was the cast album from the 1957 Broadway musical —and just fell completely in love with it as a kid. West Side Story has been that one haunting temptation that I have finally given in to.”
“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 added. “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”.
Recently, Spielberg opened up about the latest developments in the project and explained the challenges he faced. One scene that he found particularly difficult was the school dance. “The camera was on a Spidercam rig,” Spielberg told Empire. “The oner was very hard to achieve because everything is timed to the beat. You can’t be a note off in either direction.”
“That was my first day shooting; it was terrifying,” Zegler recalled while talking about that same scene. “Steven wanted it to feel like it could actually happen while still keeping that dreamy aspect. It turns into a little bit of a mating dance. It’s a really sweet moment under the smelly bleachers at a gym.”
Watch the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story below.