To play Tony in “West Side Story,” an actor must be able to sing, dance, snap and perish convincingly on screen, which narrows down the field to essentially Ryan Gosling or Ansel Elgort, and the “La La Land” star has very much been there, done that.
So Elgort as Tony it is for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation of the classic musical, according to Variety, with production set to begin in the summer of 2019.
The landmark musical, which reimagines “Romeo and Juliet” in 1950s New York City with star-crossed lovers who belong to rival gangs, first debuted on Broadway in 1957 with Larry Kert as the male lead. Actor Richard Beymer took the reins for the 1961 movie, which went on to win 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
The script will be penned by the legendary playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner with, of course, the original Leonard Bernstein score and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics.
While the first film adaptation still ranks as one of cinema’s greats, it has been re-evaluated in recent years for casting mostly white actors to play Puerto Ricans and heavily using brownface.
Rita Moreno, who took home an Oscar for her performance as Anita in the film, gave a candid interview last year about how she expressed discomfort over the “extremely dark” makeup on the set of the film.
Thankfully, Spielberg is taking a more authentic approach to the material and looking to cast Spanish-speaking Latino actors as the film’s Puerto Rican leads.
The production team has held auditions over the course of many months in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Puerto Rico for actors, singers and dancers to round out the cast, according to The Hollywood Reporter, with talk of an unknown playing opposite Elgort as Maria.