Steven Spielberg Begins Casting for 'West Side Story' to Direct After 'Indiana Jones 5'

Steven Spielberg Begins Casting for 'West Side Story' to Direct After 'Indiana Jones 5'

Jan 26, 2018

Deadline recently reported that Steven Spielberg was planning for his next two projects as director to be Indiana Jones 5 and a remake of West Side Story. Fans seemed to get the answer of which would happen first this week when author Mark Harris (Five Came Back) shared a casting notice for the latter, which Spielberg will direct for Fox from a script by Tony Kushner.

Harris had the exclusive on the musical because he's married to Kushner (he also gave credit to cating director Marci Liroff), but he didn't have any other details to offer.

But in fact West Side Story won't actually be Spielberg's next movie. The Hollywood Reporter has since confimed that Indy 5 will be first, shooting in 2019 for a 2020 release, and that this casting notice is arriving this early because the director wants a thorough search for the perfect actors to play the roles.  

Seemingly the movie is looking for unknowns with such an open casting call for leads Tony, Maria, Anita and Bernardo. Of course, famous names could wind up playing the characters. There are plenty established movie stars who could fit the parts and have the requisite singing and dancing talents. But there are some notable specifics in mind.

We can see from the casting notice that Spielberg is keeping faithful to the original production's story with Tony being specified as white and the other three as Latino. That means no white actors performing as the Puerto Rican characters, a la Natalie Wood as Maria in the 1961 movie version. He also seems to be aiming for younger-skewing performers. 

According to THR, the Latino characters may even speak Spanish in Spielberg's movie, similar to a 2009 Broadway revival of the show where the Puerto Ricans' dialogue and songs were translated, the latter featuring adapted lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. There's no word of the Hamilton creator being involved with the film, but the revival's producer, Kevin McCollum is on board.

Inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the stage production of West Side Story was written by Arthur Laurents with songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim and iconic choreography by Jerome Robbins, and it debuted on Broadway in 1957. The movie arrived four years later and went on to win 10 Oscars including Best Picture.

Considering he's now broken the record for directing more Best Picture nominees than any other filmmaker, Spielberg's version could see similar results. He has never made a musical before, though. At least, not with himself at the helm. And even as producer, his only musical credits have been with animated features.

There's no doubt he will be as successful with the genre as he is with drama, sci-fi, fantasy, adventure and war movies, and he's likely to have a good team with him for the song and dance elements. He already has one great collaborator in Kushner, whom he previously worked with on Munich and Lincoln -- both Best Picture (and Best Adapted Screenplay) nods.

West Side Story is about a forbidden interracial romance between the characters Tony and Maria, who are affiliated with different rival New York City gangs. There is violence between the two sides, escalated thanks to the relationship, with the rumbles conducted in an unrealistic but effective dance-fight manner.

We'll have to see if Spielberg maintains such a fantastical style for the musical numbers or if he changes it up for a new century with grittier fight scenes. If he's going for greater authenticity with the cast, who knows about the rest? 

Categories: News
blog comments powered by Disqus

Facebook on

The Burning Question

Which one of these people is in the movie Justice League?

  • Bradley Whitford
  • Diego Boneta
  • Gal Gadot
  • Stephen Root
Get Answer Get New Question

Gal Gadot