In an upcoming adaptation by 20th Century Fox, West Side Story will represent Steven Spielberg’s first musical project.
The plot was originally inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in which lovers Maria and Tony find themselves entangled in a bitter battle between their gangster families. Leonard Bernstein wrote the score for the original 1957 Broadway production, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The score will be adapted for the new film by David Newman, who also wrote the scores to Ice Age, Matilda and Anastasia, the latter of which won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
David Newman comes from a composing family: he is the son of legendary film composer Alfred Newman, who won nine Academy Awards and was nominated 45 times. He is also the brother of film composer Thomas Newman, who has written the scores to 1917, Finding Nemo and The Shawshank Redemption, as well as several James Bond films. David is also the cousin of Randy Newman, who has scored many Disney-Pixar films including Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story. He was up against Thomas in the 2019 Academy Awards, for which Thomas was nominated for 1917 and Randy for Marriage Story.
Spielberg has cast 18-year-old singer-songwriter Rachel Zegler as Maria, who will be making her film debut. The high school student responded to the production’s open casting call with a video of herself singing Tonight and Me Siento Hermosa. ‘I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,’ exclaimed Zegler. ‘As a Colombian-American woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like Maria are so important. To be able to bring that role to life — a role that means so much to the Hispanic community — is so humbling.’
Ansel Elgort, previously seen in Edgar Wright’s 2017 film Baby Driver, will play Tony. Plus, Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her performance playing Anita in the original film, will play a new character not included in the original – Valentina. Maddie Ziegler, famous for dancing in popular-music artist Sia’s music videos, will also be cast as a Jet.
Award-winning playwright Tony Kushner will adapt the screenplay from the original 1957 Broadway script, which was written by Arthut Laurents. He will be leaving the musical numbers intact, and the story will be in fact more similar to the original musical than to the 1961 film.
Composer David Newman will arrange and adapt Leonard Bernstein’s original score, and Gustavo Dudamel, musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will conduct the orchestra during the film’s recording sessions.
West Side Story will be released on 18 December 2020.