Following his team-up with filmmaker Edgar Wright on last year’s smash hit Baby Driver, Ansel Elgort has nabbed the leading role in a very different sort of musical project – namely, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. Spielberg’s film will be both a fresh movie adaptation of the classic 1957 stage musical and a loose remake of Robert Wise’s 1961 big screen adaptation, itself the winner of 10 Academy Awards (including Best Picture).
While Spielberg has talked about wanting to remake West Side Story since 2014, it wasn’t until earlier this year that it became clear just how serious the legendary director really is about doing just that. With Indiana Jones 5 now delayed until 2021 and no other projects ready to go at the moment, Spielberg has spent much of the past nine months sending out open casting calls in an effort to find young actors to play the musical’s white and Puerto Rican leads. He’s clearly making progress too, having now cast one of the five main leads for what will be his first full-blown movie musical.
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THR is reporting that Elgort will star in Spielberg’s West Side Story as Tony, the co-founder and former member of a white gang who call themselves the Jets and are based in the West Side’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. In the 1950s-set musical’s Romeo and Juliet-inspired story, Tony falls in love with Maria, the younger sister of Bernardo, the leader of a Puerto Rican gang known as the Sharks… and the Jets’ rivals in the West Side. Richard Beymer earned a Golden Globe nod for portraying Tony in the 1961 film.
Elgort has been widely praised for his charming performances in not only Baby Driver, but also films like the YA romance The Fault in Our Stars before it. The actor is even a part-time singer and DJ (who goes by Ansølo) and has shown off his movie musical talents on social media in the past, most notably when he did a cover of the Oscar-winning tune “City of Stars” from La La Land. Elgort was also circling an untitled musical about Hans Christian Andersen earlier this year, so he’s clearly been itching to put his singing to proper use onscreen for awhile now.
For those same reasons, the combination of Spielberg and Elgort on West Side Story sounds quite promising on paper and should help to win over those who are still wary of anyone attempting to successfully re-adapt this particular musical for the big screen (even an icon like Spielberg). The project further reunites Spielberg with his Oscar-nominated Munich and Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner, which is all the more assurance that the final film result should be something special. With Elgort onboard, it’s also looking more and more likely now that Spielberg will make the Summer 2019 production start that was reported last month.