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'It Was Important to Me': Spielberg on Latinx Representation in West Side Story

Steven Spielberg also told Shoojit Sircar that Indian cinema's inclusion of music and dance is 'very smart.'

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Celebrities
2 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Steven Spielberg with the cast of <em>West Side Story</em> including Rita Moreno, Rachel Zegler, and Ansel Elgort.</p></div>
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Hollywood director Steven Spielberg talked to filmmaker Shoojit Sircar about his musical West Side Story which released on 10 December. During an interaction, shared by 20th Century Studios India, Spielberg told Sircar that it was important for him to cast Latinx characters in the musical and that the film was meant to be a message for the youth. Spielberg also revealed that he doesn’t think his 2021 version is a remake and is instead a ‘reimagination.'

Talking about the film’s diverse cast, Steven Spielberg said, “It was very important to me that the film represent the Latinx community. There’s not a single Puerto Rican character that isn’t played by a Latinx performing artiste.”

He added, “In fact, 20 of our artistes in this are either Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent including Rito Moreno, Ariana DeBose, and Josh (Andrés Rivera) who plays Chino. So, we had 50 actors who 50 actors who had never made a film before…that was fun too.”

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Shoojit Sircar commented that he felt that West Side Story is a conversation of Steven Spielberg with the truth and the latter confirmed that it was intentional.

“It’s this generation that’s going to determine the fate of all of us…it’s how they’re influenced and what influences them. If they can start a conversation with people who are different than they are; if xenophobia someday can be in our rear-view mirror and not in our present day vernacular…and I think all that is going to be accomplished by several new generations of young people who really care about each other.”
Steven Spielberg

When Sircar mentioned that Indian cinema frequently feature songs and dance sequences, Steven Spielberg said, “You’re very smart. It’s selling a story through the fastest way to our hearts. What’s the fastest way to our hearts? It’s music and dance.”

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is the second feature-length adaptation of the 1957 stage musical. The film stars Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as well. Rita Moreno, who plays the role of Valentina in the 2021 version, starred as Anita in the 1961 adaptation.

“I don’t really love remakes. I didn’t consider this a remake; I considered this a reimagined, more authentic and more contemporary version of the original musical,” Spielberg said. The director added that the musical has been performed ‘thousands of times’ and he feels that every cast brings a new interpretation because the original is so ‘liberally reproduced.’

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