First look of Steven Spielberg's 'West Side Story' shows Rita Moreno playing Valentine and not Anita

Talking about the fact that many of the Puerto Ricans in the 1961 movie were white actors in brown makeup, Steven Spielberg said he only wanted Hispanic performers to play Hispanic characters


                            First look of Steven Spielberg's 'West Side Story' shows Rita Moreno playing Valentine and not Anita
(Getty Images)

The first look for Steven Spielberg’s ambitious adaptation of the 1957 Broadway sensation ‘West Side Story’ is out.

The story that’s a fine mix of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, street gangs — the rivalry between two gangs of teenagers in a New York neighborhood, the Sharks and the Jets — violence, and urban life is slated to release on December 18, 2020.

One of the new photos features Spielberg with Rita Moreno, who plays Valentina in the 2020 adaptation, but also played and won an Oscar for playing Anita in 1961 film adaptation of ‘West Side Story’.

Broadway veteran Ariana DeBose has been cast as Anita in the Spielberg adaptation. Another photo features Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as the star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria.

Speaking to Vanity Fair, the veteran filmmaker said, “My mom was a classical pianist. Our entire home was festooned with classical musical albums, and I grew up surrounded by classical music. ‘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.”

Talking about the relevance of the story, Spielberg said, “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. 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.”

Talking about the fact that many of the Puerto Ricans in the 1961 movie were white actors in brown makeup, Spielberg said he only wanted Hispanic performers to play Hispanic characters: “They brought an authenticity. They brought themselves, and everything they believe and everything about them — they brought that to the work. And there was so much interaction between the cast wanting to be able to commit to the Puerto Rican experience. They all represent, I think, a diversity, both within the Puerto Rican, Nuyorican community as well as the broader Latinx community. And they took that seriously.”

Justin Peck, the resident choreographer for the New York City Ballet, has been picked for giving the musical’s dance numbers a new twist. Playwright Tony Kushner of ‘Angels in America’ is also on board to update the film’s screenplay to make sense of modern times.

1961's 'West Side Story' had won 10 Oscars, including best picture. 

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