Ansel Elgort Talks 'Magical' 'West Side Story' Experience: 'It's Been a Dream' (Exclusive)

Ansel Elgort

"I just waited so long in line to get my ticket," Ansel Elgort says as he stands in line to get into New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It's been a busy couple of days for the actor, who, a day prior to chatting with ET, had been at the Toronto International Film Festival promoting his new movie, The Goldfinch.  "Yesterday was really good," he continues telling ET over the phone. "The film premiered and I think it was really well received. Everyone was quietly moved. I definitely felt a lot when I watched it."

The 25-year-old actor is back in New York to finish press for his latest project, and then it's back to the set of Steven Spielberg'sWest Side Story. The latest film version, set to be released Dec. 18, 2020, is an adaptation of the original Broadway production and explores young love and tensions between rival gangs the Jets and the Sharks on the streets of 1957 New York. For the reimagination, Elgort stars as Tony, alongside newcomer Rachel Zegler, who takes on the iconic role of Maria. 

"It's been magical!" Elgort -- who also recently launched his new fragrance collaboration with Ralph Lauren Fragrance -- marvels about his time on the set. "It's been a dream working with the best people in the business. We're having a lot of fun and pushing ourselves. It's been really great."

West Side Story
20th Century Fox

Fans already got a sneak peek at the two lovers in photos released earlier this year. While Elgort says there is still a ways to go until the film is completed, he can't wait to see the finished product and share it with the world. 

"There's dancing and singing and the music is the same, but otherwise it's a total reimagining and it all comes from Steven's vision," Elgort shares, as he praises the Oscar-winning director. "He knows how to make great films and he's been a big fan of movie musicals his whole life. I can't wait to see how he puts this all together."

When Spielberg took on the beloved classic, one concern for many was how the director would celebrate and honor its Latinx and Puerto Rican communities, which weren't as recognized in the 1961 Robert Wise adaptation. The masterminds behind the musical, however, made it a top priority to cast Latinx actors to play the Sharks, as well as many of its supporting characters. When announcing the casting of Maria (Zegler), Anita (Ariana DeBose), Bernardo (David Alvarez) and Chino (Josh Andrés Rivera) -- all Latinx actors -- Spielberg expressed how it was his intention to reflect "the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community."

West Side Story 2020
James Devaney/GC Images

"I think the film really does a much better job, a great job, of representing that whole part of the story, and it's not just a white story now," Elgort expresses. "It very much captures that culture and shows their pride correctly. So I think it will be good for everyone [when] people see it." 

For Elgort, he's had the time of his life mixing his love of acting and music together, and working with such a "great cast," he says. He also has nothing but admiration for his leading lady, Zegler, calling her an "amazing" and incredible actress. And then there's working alongside the legendary Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 film.

"She's a character, very Old Hollywood," Elgort marvels over the iconic actress, adding that he loves listening to her stories from decades past. 

Ansel Elgort Ralph Lauren Polo Red
Courtesy Ralph Lauren

All the while, as Elgort waits to get into the Met, he also touches on his forthcoming Japan-based series, Tokyo Vice, that he's starring in and producing. The story, based on Jake Adelstein’s non-fiction book of the same name, follows an American journalist who embeds himself into the Tokyo Vice police squad to reveal corruption.

"That will be a whole adventure to put together a TV show, I'm excited for that," he teases. And, as Ralph Lauren's Fragrances' Polo Red global ambassador, he'll also continue to promote his collab, Polo Red Remix X Ansel Elgort (available now), which he describes as "a little fresher, a little more energizing, a little lighter."

The first co-created fragrance for the brand came up very organically. Elgort had done the Polo Red and Red Rush campaign when Ralph Lauren tapped him for the collaboration. "It was all part of the same process and happened pretty fast," he explains. "They brought forth a bunch of scents they had already mixed... It could have gone in any direction because there were a lot of scents, but this one seemed right."

So when it comes down to it, if the scent had existed during the time of West Side Story, would Tony have splashed some on to woo Maria?

"If it existed? Sure, why not!" Elgort says with a laugh before heading into the arts museum.


'West Side Story': First Look at Ansel Elgort and Young Cast of Steven Spielberg Remake

'West Side Story' Shares First Look at Ariana DeBose as Anita in Steven Spielberg Remake

Rita Moreno Dishes on 'West Side Story' Role and Sets the Record Straight on Scripting Comments (Exclusive)

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