Iconic director Steve Spielberg has taken on the monotonous task of remaking the classic film ‘West Side Story.’ The original film was released in 1961 and starred Natalie Wood as ‘Maria’ and Rita Moreno as ‘Anita.’ Moreno won an Academy Award for best supporting actress. The film was not without it’s controversy, Wood was playing a Puerto Rican girl that falls in love with an Anglo boy. Wood did not do her own singing in the film and the fact that she was not Hispanic was met with a lot of negativity. Spielberg has taken great pains to lend some diversity to the cast.
‘Maria’ will be played by a newcomer, a 17 year old New Jersey high school senior Rachel Zegler. Actor Ansel Elgort will play Maria’s love interest ‘Tony’, some of the main ‘Shark’ roles have also been cast. Ariana DeBose will play ‘Anita’, and David Alvarez will play Anita’s brother Bernardo. Both actors are veterans of several Broadway plays. Theater performer Josh Andres Rivera has signed on to play ‘Chino’. Spielberg made a commitment to find the best actors in the Puerto Rican community and the broader Latin community.
Spielberg and his team, spent a lot of time in Puerto Rico while conducting research with Latino advocates. Rita Moreno who is now 87, will also be in the film, playing a reincarnated version of the owner of the store where ‘Tony’ works, ‘Doc’. The role is a bit expanded and tailored for Moreno, who is also an executive producer of the film. In this version the character is named, Valentina. Moreno said, “I simply can’t wait to get on set, to work with this group of young actors. What an ensemble, and I look forward to passing the baton to the next generation of Sharks.” The film is expected to start filming in the summer of 2019, and be released in 2020.