‘West Side Story’ Is Getting a Non-Whitewashed Remake from Steven Spielberg


'West Side Story' Is Getting a Non-Whitewashed Remake from Steven Spielberg

A big-screen remake of West Side Story is in the works, with one very significant difference from the original.

Broadway World reports that a casting call has gone out for the Steven Spielberg-directed remake of the iconic 1957 musical, which follows a star-crossed romance between members of two rival street gangs – the “Sharks,” who are Puerto Rican, and the “Jets,” who are white. Angels in America writer Tony Kushner is writing the script for the new adaptation.

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Here’s the key part of the casting call: Three Latinx performers are being sought for the principal roles of Maria, Anita and Bernado, all Sharks, along with a white actor for the role of Tony. In the multiple Oscar-winning 1961 movie, Maria and Bernado were both played by white actors (Natalie Wood and George Chakiris), a decision which is now often cited as an example of Hollywood whitewashing. Rita Moreno, who is Puerto Rican and played Anita in the original movie, has spoken before about this uncomfortable aspect of the project.

Not much else is known yet about the new adaptation. The casting call states that all four actors must be able to sing, and Maria, Anita and Bernardo must be able to speak Spanish.

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West Side Story is loosely inspired by Romeo & Juliet, with Jets founding member Tony falling for Maria, who is the sister of the Sharks leader Bernado. The music was written by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim – the original 1957 Broadway production also marked Sondheim’s Broadway debut.

Spielberg has been rumored to revive the classic musical for years. Though he briefly addressed it in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the recent casting call officially confirms his involvement.


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