Even late into his career, Steven Spielberg is heading into new territory as a filmmaker. Fresh from entering the virtual reality frontier in his popcorn adventure Ready Player One, he’s about to tackle his first full-blown musical with a new take on West Side Story – Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein’s musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet, centred on rival gangs on the streets of New York. With the film now in production, 20th Century Fox has shared the first image of the all-new Sharks and Jets.
Front and centre are our star-crossed couple, Tony and Maria, this time played by Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler – and they’re flanked by the Jets on the left, and Sharks on the right. The young cast largely consists of up-and-comers, but elsewhere the film has the likes of Corey Stoll and Brian d’Arcy James on board. Plus Rita Moreno, who starred as Anita in the 1961 version, returns in a reimagined role here as Valentina – owner of the corner story where lead Tony works, named ‘Doc’ in previous versions. Spielberg is working from a screenplay by Munich and Lincoln writer Tony Kushner, and is reteaming with his regular cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
While Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ original 1961 film sets a stupendously high bar for Spielberg to cross, the latest resurgence in the popularity of big-screen musicals makes this the perfect time for one of the most iconic directors of all time to burst into song. West Side Story will arrive in UK cinemas in December 2020.