Hollywood cannot seem to quit it with the remakes, and West Side Story is merely the latest victim of this disease that is plaguing us all.
Steven Spielberg has announced that he is currently casting for his remake of West Side Story, which will feature a script from the openly gay Angels in America scribe Tony Kushner. However, Spielberg is apparently taking a more progressive approach to casting: He is currently looking for Latinx actors to play the Puerto Rican leads of Maria, Bernardo, and Anita.
In the original 1961 movie musical, of course, Maria and Bernardo were played by the white Natalie Wood and the Greek George Chakiris. Only Anita, played by Puerto Rican EGOT winner Rita Moreno, felt authentic.
While it comes as a surprise that Spielberg is remaking what is considered a showcase of classic music and choreography, it’s laudable that he is creating more work for Latinx actors and actresses who might otherwise be pushed out by white actors. As recently as a week ago, the very non-Hispanic Catherine Zeta-Jones appeared in brownface in Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story to much controversy and nonexistent acclaim.
So while we’re being progressive, might we suggest that this remake borrow a few moves from the 2009 Broadway production of West Side Story, which incorporated both Spanish and dialogue and lyrics from none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda? After all, we have at least a few years before this thing gets made, considering Spielberg is presently focused on completing another Indiana Jones installment (ugh.)
Also, would it be too revolutionary for, perhaps, RuPaul’s Drag Race fan fave Valentina to take on the Natalie Wood role and sing, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty; I feel pretty, and witty, and gaaaaay?” Just cast her opposite Neil Patrick Harris and you have yourself the prettiest, wittiest, gayest Oscar contender this side of Moonlight. That is, IF she lifts her veil.