When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way – from your first cigarette to your last dying day. And fans excited to see the first glimpse of Steven Spielberg‘s version of Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story were living for the shots of Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler in Vanity Fair. In the magazine’s preview of the movie, Rachel and Ansel appear as Tony and Maria, musical/film’s main characters. The chemistry between the two star-crossed lovers was undeniable. As members of NYC street gangs – Tony, a former member of the Jets and Maria, the sister of the leader of the Sharks — these two try to find a place for their romance in this version of the Romeo & Juliet story.
West Side Story was an instant smash when it hit Broadway in 1957, and its 1961 film adaptation dominated the Oscars. Now, it’s time for Steven Spielberg to offer his take on the musical, which turns out, holds a dear place in his hear. “My mom was a classical pianist,” Spielberg, 73, told Vanity Fair. “Our entire home was festooned with classical musical albums, and I grew up surrounded by classical music. West Side Story was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed into the home. I absconded with it—this was the cast album from the 1957 Broadway musical—and just fell completely in love with it as a kid. West Side Story has been that one haunting temptation that I have finally given in to.”
In addition to the love story at the center of the film, West Side Story also weaves in the question of immigration and who has the right to call America home. In the wake of the current social climate and the policies of the Donald Trump administration, it seems West Side Story seems more relevant than ever. “This story is not only a product of its time, but that time has returned, and it’s returned with a kind of social fury,” Spielberg told Vanity Fair. “I really wanted to tell that Puerto Rican, Nuyorican experience of basically the migration to this country and the struggle to make a living, and to have children, and to battle against the obstacles of xenophobia and racial prejudice.”
For the 2020 film, Steven Spielberg enlisted the help of Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner, who worked with Spielberg on Munich and Lincoln, to update the story while retaining the familiar songs. There’s also a familiar face in the 2020 movie: Rita Moreno. The 88-year-old living legend won a Best Support Actress Oscar for her role as Anita in the 1961 classic, and she’s back as a new character for this 2020 update. She told Vanity Fair that Spielberg and Kushner “really wanted to right some…should I say wrongs? I don’t know if that’s…yes, that’s fair, because the  film had a lot of things that were wrong with it, aside from the fact that it had a lot of things that were very right.”
This time around, the Tony-nominated Ariana DeBose plays Anita, and Rita had nothing but praise for her. “She is a ferocious dancer—way, way better than I was.”
West Side Story is out on Dec. 18, 2020.