Spielberg rolls out full West Side Story cast

Spielberg rolls out full West Side Story cast


norman lebrecht

June 18, 2019

The film is scheduled for release in October 2020. Here’s what we now know.

The cast includes Rachel Zegler (Maria), Ansel Elgort (Tony), Ariana DeBose (Anita), David Alvarez (Bernardo), Mike Faist (Riff), Josh Andrés Rivera (Chino), Corey Stoll (Lieutenant Schrank) and Brian d’Arcy James (Sergeant Krupke). Rita Moreno, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 film version of West Side Story, will feature as Valentina, a reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works.

West Side Story is produced and directed by Steven Spielberg from a script by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner (Lincoln). Tony Award winner Justin Peck will choreograph the musical numbers in the film. Also leading the production are Tony Award-winning producer Kevin McCollum and Academy Award-nominated producer Kristie Macosko Krieger.

The film’s music team includes conductor Gustavo Dudamel, composer and conductor David Newman (Anastasia) who will be arranging the score; composer Jeanine Tesori (Broadway’s Fun Home and Thoroughly Modern Millie), who will be working with the cast on vocals; and Grammy-nominated music supervisor Matt Sullivan (Beauty and the Beast, Chicago), who will serve as executive music producer for the film.



  • Secret says:

    Ioan Holender wanted Spielberg to direct West Side Story in 2010, his final season at the Vienna Staatsoper. Ozawa would have conducted with Villazon and Netrebko in leading roles. Did not work out due to Spielberg having too many film projects.

  • Tim Ball says:

    ‘arranging the score’?
    Not necessary, surely?

    • Cubs Fan says:

      The previous score sounds dated, and Bernstein wasn’t all that find of it. Needs updating they think. A refreshing. What I can’t understand is the need for a new script. How much are they going to change this?

      • JBB says:

        The references to ‘zip guns’ and the iterations of ‘pow,’ etc., surely need to be changed.

      • Monsoon says:

        I’d argue the reverse.

        The story is a racist caricature of Puerto Rican immigrants, and the explicitly negative depiction of Puerto Rico in “America” is particularly problematic given current events. It’s basically a minstrel show down to white actors going “brown face.”

        It sounds like Spielberg is grappling with this — he’s gone on a listening tour — but I don’t see this being fixed by revising the script.

        Some things are best left in the past.

      • Tim Ball says:

        Well, the score was not re-orchestated when Bernstein came to make his own recording.
        Watching the documentary ‘The making of WSS’ he seems pretty pleased. At one point he says ‘I’m so proud of it’. As for ‘updating’ one may as well say that any score from the past needs this.

    • Pete says:

      Neither the 1961movie nor the original Broadway production was arranged by Bernstein. The Broadway program was orchestrated by Ramin and Kostal based on instructions by Bernstein. The same men reorchestrated the score for the 1961 movie.

      • Tim Ball says:

        And when LB heard /saw the film version he apparently said: What have you done to my f***in music?

        • jim says:

          Considering what Bernstein himself did to the music in that horrible recording he made with Te Kanawa and Carreras he really his complaints just sound like egotistical sour grapes. Considering what happened to most B’way scores when they hit Hollywood he should have been grateful. I think the soundtrack of WSS still sound pretty damned terrific.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    ==Villazon and Netrebko in leading roles.

    Huh ? Did they learn nothing from the frightful Careras / Kiri casting for DG ?

  • Ned Keene says:

    Old wine in old bottles. Anything to make a buck, eh?

    • Tamino says:

      Some old wine in old bottles are superior to more recent creations. Not all wines age equally well though.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    With the exception of Natalie Wood, most of the young actors from the 1961 film are still around. Besides Moreno (87), there’s George Chakiris (84), Russ Tamblyn (84), and Richard Beymer (81). Also the great dancer Eliot Feld (76), who played Baby John. Jimmy Bryant, who dubbed Tony’s songs, is still with us, though Marni Nixon, who did Maria’s, died three years ago.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    I see ET as Doc.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    What a steaming pile of garbage. What a waste of Spielberg’s time and talent. How can the estates be permitting this atrocity? The money must be huge.

    • Nick2 says:

      And what a ridiculous comment! You can make that once the film has been released and you have seen it. To do so beforehand shows outrageous bias!

      There is only one estate. Decades ago the creators permitted the Bernstein Estate to handle all negotiations for all WSS proposed projects.

    • Mick the Knife says:

      Spielberg’s talent? The First Indiana Jones movie was fun, I’ll say that.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    I would be very surprised if the modern film turns out to be better than the early 60s original. (I hadn’t seen the production on stage so cannot comment on that.) That’s not to say the original isn’t flawed; all that finger snapping nearly drove me mad! And John Astin was truly appalling in his scenes as the goofy dance chaperone!

    I expect the major difference between Wise’s film and this new one will be more swearing and violence. Sigh.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    This is the kind of project that will turn out either really good or really bad. Personally, I’m not betting either way. Time will tell.
    Comment no. 1: as much as I absolutely ADORE Rita Moreno, Doc is a man’s part – an old grizzled seen-everything holocaust-survivor-type man’s part. The Doc-Tony relationship would never have happened if Doc was a woman. It is a father-son relationship – get it? The producers don’t! I don’t like seeing characters of classic musical shows “reconceived and expanded”.
    Comment no. 2: I have trouble visualizing Justin Peck improving on (or even approaching the quality of) Jerome Robbins’ original choreography. Maybe it’ll happen – maybe not.
    Comment no. 3: “conductor David Newman (Anastasia) … will be arranging the score”. I hope he doesn’t lose the essential pit-band jazziness and mambo-ness of the fantastic and iconic Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal arrangement overseen and approved of by Bernstein himself. If DN turns it into a bloated rock score with orchestra (or worse, a hip-hop score) he should be drum-machined out of the business.
    But like I said: time will tell.

    • Eric B says:

      Yes, I hope they won’t apply to that score the same treatment applied to the Sweeney Todd movie… Brrrrr.

  • Rob says:

    Spielberg should get Sid Ramin again, (now 100 and living) to arrange the score he co-arranged/orchestrated for the 1961 film for which he won the Oscar for best scoring of a musical picture.

  • Tim Ball says:

    Mr Ramin died on 1st July.