The William Shakespeare play “Romeo and Juliet” immortalized the story of two lovers coming from violently feuding factions, hoping that their bond could mend the rift of hostility only to be destroyed by it instead. Several adaptations of the play have been made over the centuries all over the world, but perhaps one of the most significant is the Broadway musical “West Side Story” and its film version, translating the feuding families of Verona into street gangs on contemporary Manhattan. The 1961 movie is getting a major remake from director Steven Spielberg; and a young getaway driver with tinnitus, or rather his actor, just got cast as the male lead.
Entertainment Weekly has it that legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg has taken up the challenge of remaking “West Side Story”, with a new script from Tony Kushner based on the original 1957 Broadway book. To play the role of the Romeo analogue Tony, the production has cast the baby-faced 24-year-old Ansel Elgort, who is presently best-known perhaps for his starring role in 2017’s “Baby Driver” from Sony and TriStar Pictures. Elgort is among the first to be picked from a casting call for the “West Side Story” remake, having just finished work on the 2019 premiering “The Goldfinch” from Warner Brothers.
“West Side” being a musical from its conception, Spielberg and his fellow producers Kevin McCollum, and Kristie Macosko Krieger spent several months going across the country to find the right actors, actresses and performers for the project. Elgort happens to be a DJ and singer himself, thus ticking the box for “must be able to sing” that the casting crew is looking for the lead roles of Tony, Maria his “Juliet”, her brother Bernardo and best friend Anita. There is also the “dance experience a plus” qualification, and already the producers have seen thousands in the course of casting call.
The remake has hints of trying to stick to the original time period of the musical and film in the 1950s to sixties, compared to more recent Broadway productions in the 2000s that have tried to update the atmosphere. As before, “West Side Story” will follow the star-crossed love between Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria, who are torn apart by the gangs they are affiliated with. The original 1961 film starred Richard Beymer as Tony and Natalie Wood as Maria, with Jimmy Bryant and Marni Nixon as their respective singing voices. Steven Spielberg seems determined to find leads who can sing well enough for themselves.
Casting for the rest of the roles in the remake is still ongoing, with filming itself not expected to begin until around summer of 2019.
Image from Hollywood Reporter