West Side Story remake: Cast, release date and songs revealed

28 May 2019, 15:36 | Updated: 28 May 2019, 15:41

West Side Story
West Side Story. Picture: United Artists

By Tom Eames

It's been nearly 60 years since West Side Story lit up the big screen.

The iconic musical from 1961 is being remade into a brand new film, and is expected to be released in 2020.

But who is in the cast and what can we expect from the new version? Here are all the facts so far:

  1. What is West Side Story?

    West Side Story is a musical written by Arthur Laurents, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

    The story was inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, and is set in the Upper West Side neighbourhood in New York City in the mid 1950s.

    It follows the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks, hailing from Puerto Rico, are at war with the Jets, a white gang.

    Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang's leader Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, who just so happens to be the leader of the Sharks.

    In 1961, it was made into a Hollywood film starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, winning 10 Oscars.

  2. Who is directing the West Side Story remake?

    Steven Spielberg
    Steven Spielberg. Picture: Getty

    The new adaptation is set to be directed by Steven Spielberg, and written by Tony Kushner, the man behind Angels in America and Lincoln.

    Kushner has said that he plans to keep it closer to the original Broadway musical than the 1961 movie version, saying that "there are aspects of urban life in ‘57, ‘58, ‘59 that weren’t touched on in the 1961 movie that we are focusing on."

  3. West Side Story cast: Who is playing Maria and Tony?

    Natalie Wood / Rachel Zegler as Maria
    Natalie Wood / Rachel Zegler as Maria. Picture: United Artists/Rachel Zegler

    In an exciting move, an unknown high school student has been cast as Maria.

    Rachel Zegler, 17, was chosen from 30,000 applicants after responding to a casting call for Latino and Latina actors in 2018.

    Writing on Instagram, Zegler said she was "honoured" to have been cast, having previously played Maria in a high school musical.

    "When I played Maria on stage a few summers ago, I never could have imagined that I'd be taking on the role again in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story," she wrote.

    "As a Colombian-American woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like Maria are so important. To be able to bring that role to life - a role that means so much to the Hispanic community - is so humbling."

    Meanwhile, actor Ansel Elgort will play Tony. He is best known for his roles in movies such as The Fault in Our Stars and Baby Driver.

    Richard Beymer / Ansel Elgort as Tony
    Richard Beymer / Ansel Elgort as Tony. Picture: Getty

    When he announced the remake, Spielberg said that he would only cast Latina and Latino actors for the Puerto Rican roles.

    Rita Moreno - who won an Oscar for playing Anita in the original movie - will be back, but this time as Valentina, a new character based on Doc from the 1961 version.

    Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez and Josh Andrés Rivera have been cast as Anita, Bernardo and Chino, respectively.

    Ned Glass as Doc / Rita Moreno as Valentina
    Ned Glass as Doc / Rita Moreno as Valentina. Picture: Getty/United Artists
    Rita Moreno / Ariana DeBose as Anita
    Rita Moreno / Ariana DeBose as Anita. Picture: Getty/United Artists
    George Chakiris / David Alvarez as Bernardo
    George Chakiris / David Alvarez as Bernardo. Picture: United Artists/David Alvarez
    Jose de Vega / Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino
    Jose de Vega / Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino. Picture: United Artists/Josh Andrés Rivera

    Mike Faist will play Riff, Ana Isabelle is Rosalia, and Maddie Ziegler - famous for her music video work with Sia - is a member of the Jets.

    House of Cards star Corey Stoll will play Police Lieutenant Schrank, and Officer Krupke will be played by Brian d'Arcy James.

    Russ Tamblyn / Mike Faist as Riff
    Russ Tamblyn / Mike Faist as Riff. Picture: Getty
    Simon Oakland / Corey Stoll as Schrank
    Simon Oakland / Corey Stoll as Schrank. Picture: Getty/United Artists
    William Bramley / Brian d'Arcy James as Krupke
    William Bramley / Brian d'Arcy James as Krupke. Picture: Getty/United Artists
    Ana Isabelle and Maddie Ziegler
    Ana Isabelle and Maddie Ziegler. Picture: Getty
  4. West Side Story release date: When does it come out?

    The film is currently scheduled for release on December 18, 2020 in the US.

  5. West Side Story songs: Which songs will appear?

    Spielberg has yet to confirm which songs will appear, or if any new songs will be written for the musical.

    Songs in the original musical include: 'Something's Coming', 'Maria', 'America', 'Somewhere', 'Tonight', 'I Feel Pretty', 'A Boy Like That', 'One Hand, One Heart', 'Gee, Officer Krupke', and 'Cool'.

    Composer David Newman will arrange and adapt Leonard Bernstein's original score for the film.

    Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will conduct the orchestra during the film's recording sessions.