'West Side Story': First Pics of Ansel Elgort, Rita Moreno and Cast in Steven Spielberg's Remake
By Stacy Lambe
TWENTIETH CENTURY STUDIOS
West Side Story is back, with Steven Spielberg bringing the hit Broadway musical to life on screen for the first time since the 1961 classic starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. Newcomer Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort will take over as Maria and Tony, two teens on opposite sides of a gang feud in 1950s New York City, in the upcoming movie slated to open this winter.
Following the release of a teaser photo of the two leads and the full cast of supporting young actors as their respective gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, the first official images of the film have finally been released. Vanity Fairdebuted a collection of stills featuring Elgort, Zegler and Rita Moreno, who is back as shopkeeper Valentina, in the anticipated remake.
Moreno, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 version, hands over her scene-stealing role to So You Think You Can Dance alum and theater star Ariana DeBose. Additionally, Spielberg made the 88-year-old actress an executive producer on the film and encouraged her to mentor the cast of newcomers and rising stars.
“I was using bad language and all that, and I said, ‘You are f**ked! You are f**ked if they catch you! You don’t have a chance,’” Morena recalls to the magazine. “And they’re all looking at me with big beautiful brown eyes. I said, ‘Talk to each other before you do the scene again! Scare each other!’”
“She’s a character, very Old Hollywood,” Elgort told ET in the fall about working with the iconic actress, adding that he loves listening to her stories from decades past.
Notably, unlike the original, the cast features actors of Hispanic backgrounds or Puerto Rican descent playing the film’s Hispanic characters, particularly the members of the Sharks gang. When announcing the casting of Maria (Zegler), Anita (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."
“That’s what they were trying to fix and ameliorate,” Moreno says of the director’s effort to bring authenticity to the story, “And I think they have done an incredible job.”
“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 told ET while they were still busy filming on location in New York City. “It very much captures that culture and shows their pride correctly. So I think it will be good for everyone [when] people see it.”
Just like the first images show, the new version of West Side Story promises to be what Elgort describes as a “magical” experience.
"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," the actor says. “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.”
West Side Story is slated to debut in theaters on Dec. 18, 2020.