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Steven Spielberg to remake West Side Story

West Side Story

Story by Jack Foley

STEVEN Spielberg is to remake the classic musical West Side Story.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, casting notices went out this week as the director looks to be ready to start filming the remake as soon as he finishes work on a new Indiana Jones movie.

Sources quoted by THR say that Spielberg plans to shoot the fifth Indy instalment in 2019 with a goal of having it released in 2020. West Side Story would follow.

Spielberg is reportedly working with producers Kristie Macosko Krieger and Kevin McCollum, the Broadway luminary whose resume includes the Tony Award-winning musicals Rent, In The Heights and Avenue Q, to make sure the cast is assembled in a suitably ethnically authentic manner.

The move comes at a time when Latino activists are asking for more on-screen representation.

West Side Story is set against the backdrop of a changing and simmering New York City as two gangs – a white one named The Jets and a Puerto Rican one called The Sharks – fight for their place in the streets.

Issues of immigrant life and assimilation are touched upon as the two lovers, white Tony and Latina Maria, the sister of the Sharks’ leader, dream of running away and getting married.

In the original 1961 movie, Natalie Wood, a white actress of Ukrainian descent, played Maria, while George Chakris, a Greek-American, played her brother and Sharks leader Bernardo.

The only Latin lead in the original was Rita Moreno, who played Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita.

In Spielberg’s casting notes, it states that the director is looking for a Latina actress as Maria, who ‘must be able to sing [and] must be able to speak Spanish’.

Anita is once again earmarked for a Latina actress and Bernardo would also be played by a Latino.

It’s notable that one of Spielberg’s producing team, McCollum, was one of the producers of a 2009 Broadway production of West Side Story that experimented with the Puerto Rican characters speaking in Spanish. Some of their songs, such as Maria’s I Feel Pretty, were also sung in Spanish, with new lyrics translated by Lin-Manuel Miranda.