The Next Steven Spielberg Project? Remaking ‘West Side Story’
After finishing the Oscar-nominated journalist drama The Post starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, it looks like Steven Spielberg is already preparing for his next project — a musical.
It's none other than West Side Story, one of the most beloved musicals of all time about rival gangs, forbidden love, and racial clash.
The film version, released in 1961, starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn, with Moreno and Chakiris each earning an Academy Award for their performances. The film also reaped numerous accolades, including Best Picture.
Tony-winning scribe Tony Kushner will pen the screenplay. The cast has yet to be determined. A casting call was recently released, as seen below:
The announcement explicitly seeks Latino and Latina actors for the parts of Maria, Anita, and Bernardo, a good sign that the Oscar-winning Bridge of Spies director has no plans to whitewash the film, unlike many other movies that cast white actors despite the base material originally featuring people of color. However, the role of Tony, who is Caucasian, will still go to a white man. Broadway World adds that the Latina and Latino actors must be able to speak Spanish.
Interested actors must be between 15 to 25 years old and are able to sing, obviously. A dance experience is a plus, the casting call notes. Make sure to check out the other requirements in the announcement embedded above.
Rumors about Spielberg remaking the classic musical have been circulating for the last few years. Deadline first reported in 2014 that Spielberg intends to redo the film, then in 2016, the director himself confirmed it in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying he has long wanted to adapt the material "for decades," spending 15 years attempting to land the rights.
Since the film is still in the casting process, it might not premiere until late 2019, or perhaps even 2020. Unforeseen delays also always occur in production, so don't hold your breath for a release date to be announced anytime soon. But it's safe to assume that Spielberg already has plenty of ideas on how he'll approach the material, given that he's been chasing it for decades.
Ultimately, however, one can't help but think whether this is merely a passion project by Spielberg, since the original itself doesn't really need a remake, being that it's already a remarkable, faithful adaptation of the original material by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and Arthur Laurents. Can Spielberg improve on the original's caliber? What does he intend to say by remaking this film?
Perhaps with immigration being a timely topic again in America, West Side Story will find a wider audience. Time, however, will tell.