‘West Side Story’ movie: Why Steven Spielberg’s directing it

Written by Staff Writer

Steven Spielberg is nothing if not ambitious. He’s had a big-budgeted Hollywood blockbuster every year since ‘Jaws’ came out in 1975.

Now, after three films in 2016 alone, he’s putting a high-profile production team behind his next project — an adaptation of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical “West Side Story.”

“Because of the political climate in the country, because of the current state of things,” Spielberg said in a trailer released on Monday, “I just thought, ‘what a great opportunity to make a production that is really about the American spirit and its resilience, and the belief that we can come together regardless of class, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of anything else and we can still live up to the promises of our country.’ “

‘Genius’ star Sir Ben Whishaw takes on a role originally originated by Marlon Brando. Credit: Courtesy Disney/Lucasfilm

Called “West Side Story: The Motion Picture,” the movie is a production from Disney’s Imagineering division, and will reportedly cost up to $250 million.

It’s considered one of the most brilliant shows ever written, and stars Nicholas Britell’s Oscar-nominated score, the classic lyrics by Brando and Sondheim, and a storied cast of characters that spanned decades and continents. Set in contemporary Manhattan, it takes place among two cross-cultural rival gangs in South Brooklyn.

The Beast is played by Dakota Fanning. Credit: Courtesy Disney/Lucasfilm

For the film adaptation, an all-star cast and creative team has been assembled. It includes the director, Steve Coogan, and Oscar-winner Denzel Washington, who will play the role originated by Brando.

Steve Coogan is in the cast, too. Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm

Original cast members such as Rita Moreno, Emma Stone, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Russell Crowe, and Michelle Pfeiffer have also signed on, as have current leading ladies Rita Ora and Dakota Fanning.

“It’s a love story about the kids,” Coogan said during an interview on Monday at New York’s Empire State Building. “It’s a movie about the innocence of youth. I’m a massive fan of the musical, and the only problem with this project for me was that it was coming from the wonderful team at Disney and Imagineering.”

Rita Moreno, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role, will return to the film as Maria. Credit: Courtesy Disney/Lucasfilm

Felicity Jones (and more) filming “West Side Story” at the Empire State Building. Credit: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

We took a peek at the cast and crew’s set on Monday, and here’s a visual look at who’s who:

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