The songs "One Hand, One Heart" and "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love" were performed live on set by Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler on the former, and Ariana DeBose and Zegler on the latter. Sections of "Maria" were also sung live on set by Elgort, as per his request. All other songs were filmed to the more traditional playback technique. "Somewhere" was also sung live on set by Rita Moreno.

While she has played Maria in plenty of stage productions of "West Side Story", this is Rachel Zegler's first film role. Steven Spielberg credits her as the greatest Maria he's ever witnessed.

John Williams was brought in to serve as music consultant for the film. Williams was piano soloist for the soundtrack of the 1961 version.

Considering the relatively large 60-year time span between the original and this production, three actors who appeared in the 1961 release reprise different roles in this 2021 production, including, Rita Moreno, Harvey Evans and David Bean. Evans and Bean were both members of "The Jets" in the original, respectively playing Mouthpiece and Tiger.

At one point, Rita Moreno said she wouldn't make a cameo in the movie, but eventually agreed to play the role of Valentina, which is a re-imagining of the character of Doc (she is Doc's widow).

Mike Faist lost about 20 pounds (9 kg) to play Riff, inspired by real photos of young gang members during the 1950's that he discovered while researching his character.

The film is dedicated to Steven Spielberg's father Arnold Spielberg an electrical engineer and World War II veteran, who died of natural causes at the age of 103 in 2020, the year the film was initially supposed to be released.

Released posthumously after lyricist Stephen Sondheim died on November 26, 2021, days before the world premiere. He did, however, get to see the final cut of the film and prefers this film to the 1961 film, as he told Stephen Colbert on the latter's late-night talk show.

When casting this remake, Steven Spielberg insisted that all Latino characters be portrayed by real Latino actors.

An anomaly with the brakes system of the New York City Subway has the lines screeching out the first three notes of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "Somewhere" from West Side Story. This anomaly is intentionally featured in the film for the scene where Maria meets Tony in the Subway.

This film marks the first time Steven Spielberg has directed a musical. Spielberg previously developed a semi-autobiographical musical film titled "Reel to Reel" in the early 1980s, but the project was eventually abandoned.

According to Rachel Zegler, Spielberg instructed her to have "less fun dancing with Chino" because "Tony wouldn't stand a chance with you smiling like that."

This film's end credits sequence pays homage to the 1961 film's groundbreaking end credits sequence designed by Saul Bass, except that in this version, while following the same concept, the credits themselves are not literally presented as graffiti. In addition, the 1961 film's instrumental end credit suite is carried over to this film as well, but extended from 5 minutes to 9 minutes in order to fit the length of the credit roll following the main-on-end title portion, by incorporating "America," "Scherzo" and "Mambo" into the existing medley comprising of "Somewhere, "Tonight," "I Feel Pretty" and "Maria."

According to a behind-the-scenes featurette of the film, Steven Spielberg explained why he always wanted to direct a motion picture adaptation of the original 1957 Broadway musical production: "I have been challenged by what would be the right musical to take on. And I could never forget my childhood. I was 10 years old when I first listened to the West Side Story album, and it never went away. I've been able to fulfill that dream and keep that promise that I made to myself: You must make West Side Story." He, then, went on to explain why the musical is even more topical in modern times than it was when the musical first premiered on Broadway: "Divisions between un-likeminded people is as old as time itself," Spielberg said. "And the divisions between the Sharks and the Jets in 1957, which inspired the musical, were profound. But not as divided as we find ourselves today. It turned out in the middle of the development of the script, things widened, which I think in a sense, sadly, made the story of those racial divides - not just territorial divides - more relevant to today's audience than perhaps it even was in 1957."

Screenwriter Tony Kushner has stated the film will be more in line with the original book by Arthur Laurents than the 1961 film adaptation.

The film follows the original song order of the stage musical with just two exceptions: Gee, Officer Krupke is moved to earlier (as the 1961 movie also did) and Cool (usually performed before the war council in the stage musical) is sung by Tony to Riff (rather than being sung by Riff to the Jets) The 1961 film placed Cool much later (after the rumble) and was performed by Ice - known as Diesel in the stage musical. The 2021 film changes that character back to Diesel, with a separate Jet, also named Ice, created for this film.

Ansel Elgort did his own climbing for the balcony scene. He tried to convince the production to not give him a safety harness, but was ultimately overruled.

Stephen Sondheim's lyrics contain frequent euphemisms for the F-word such as "bugging" in When You're a Jet (the 1961 film removed the phrase in the original production "mother lovin", restored in this version). But Sondheim initially wanted to use the F-word in the song Gee, Officer Krupke for shock value. Upon being informed the cast recording could not be shipped out of state with profanity, he agreed to change the lyric to "Officer Krupke, Krup you!"

Director of Photography, Janusz Kaminski, went to great lengths to replicate, as closely as possible, the lighting and visual style of the original 1961 film, as photographed by its Oscar-winning cinematographer Daniel L. Fapp A.S.C.

Naya Rivera campaigned and sent an audition tape in for the role of Anita. She had previously played this role (and sung the songs "America" and "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love") in Glee (2009), during Glee: The First Time (2011), during the school's performance of "West Side Story". However she sadly drowned back in the summer 2020.

In interviews Rachel Zegler recalls that when she received the role of Maria she was about to begin rehearsals for her final school musical which was Shrek: The Musical. She asked Steven Spielberg if she could still do the show despite being cast in the movie to which he replied "I produced the original Shrek, of course you can do Shrek". Coincidently this film also features Brian d'Arcy James (Officer Krupke) who originated the role of Shrek on Broadway.

When Ansel Elgort went to audition for Steven Spielberg, Elgort did not inform anyone he was feeling sick at the time. After Spielberg learned of this, he invited Elgort back to retest for Tony, which he immediately got.

On September 23rd, 2020, the film was delayed almost a whole year from December 18th, 2020 to December 10th, 2021, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It's been announced that there will be no English subtitles when the characters are talking in Spanish. Regarding this decision, Spielberg explained that this was done "out of respect for the inclusivity of our intentions to hire a totally Latinx cast to play the Sharks' boys and girls ... If I subtitled the Spanish I'd simply be doubling down on the English and giving English the power over the Spanish. This was not going to happen in this film, I needed to respect the language enough not to subtitle it." Spielberg has also previously been on the record disliking subtitles, believing them to be distracting, and generally avoiding the use of them in his films.

Bernardo and Maria are given the surname Vasquez in this version. You can see it on the boxing poster in their apartment, advertising one of Bernardo's past fights.

An earlier attempt to remake West Side Story (1961) occurred in 1996, when Walt Disney Pictures (which would acquire 20th Century Fox in 2019) planned to do an adaptation of it set in the 1990s. This version was to have been directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, but the plan did not come to fruition.

Marks Oscar-winning Polish cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's 15th feature with Steven Spielberg as director. Their first collaboration began with Schindler's List (1993). Oscar-winning editor Michael Kahn marks his 25th joint venture with Spielberg, having first edited his Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

The remake has several former Billy Elliots in the cast. They are veterans of both the Broadway production and the national tour. David Alvarez (Bernardo) is one of the original Broadway, Tony Award winning Billys. Ben Cook (Mouthpiece) played Tall Boy on Broadway, and went on to play Billy in the US National Tour. Julian Elia (Tiger), and Myles Erlick (Snowboy) were both replacement Billys on Broadway. Daniel Patrick Russell (Jet) played Billy in Melbourne Australia, and in the US National Tour.

Jeanine Tesori, the supervising vocal producer for this film's shoot, is herself an acclaimed musical theater composer and arranger. She has been nominated for several Tony Awards, including for her work on Thoroughly Modern Millie, Caroline, or Change, and Shrek The Musical, and she won the 2015 Tony for Best Original Score Written for the Theatre for Fun Home. She wrote Caroline, or Change with Tony Kushner, the screenwriter of this adaptation of West Side Story. She has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, although (unlike Kushner) she has never won one.

Mike Faist originally auditioned for Tony, before he was asked to read for the role of Riff instead, which he ultimately landed. The same thing happened with Russ Tamblyn in the 1961 film.

Rachel Zegler's feature film debut.

Arthur Laurents, who wrote the original Broadway production's book, felt the 1961 film version was very flawed due to "bogus accents, bogus dialect, bogus costumes."

The film's December 10, 2021 release date comes one day before Rita Moreno's 90th birthday and eight days before Steven Spielberg's 75th birthday.

This is the second time Steven Spielberg has produced a remake of a film directed by Robert Wise. He previously produced The Haunting (1999). West Side Story (1961) also featured Russ Tamblyn.

This film is longer than the 1961 original version by three minutes.

To establish a strong bond between the Jet actors, Mike Faist took it upon himself to schedule what he called "Jet-tivities", where each member took their turn picking a social activity that all of them were required to participate in. And while they didn't take it to the extremes the 1961 film actors did, they also did a few things to heighten the tension between them and the Shark actors, such as competing against them in a LARP battle and upstaging them by buying roses for all of the female cast members.

Final film of Doreen Montalvo.

"One Hand, One Heart" was originally written for the balcony scene, until Stephen Sondheim reconsidered that such a solemn song did not capture the spirit of youthful romance and passion at first sight. He and Leonard Bernstein re purposed the music from Tonight Quintet (which had already been written) to write a new variation on Tonight, which then became a motif throughout the play.

Contrasting with most modern movie musicals, almost the entirety of the cast is made up of musical theatre performers unknown to mainstream film audiences. Rita Moreno is the most famous among the lead cast, being an EGOT winner. Except for Ansel Elgort (who became famous through non-musical films), Rachel Zegler (who got cast straight out of high school), and Corey Stoll (who's worked primarily on TV with a few supporting film roles), all of the principals are Broadway alums.

It was well publicized how all the actors in this version would do their own singing, unlike the original which infamously dubbed almost every principal soloist either partially or entirely.

Mike Faist improvised Riff leaning into the gun when the dealer holds it up to his forehead.

To avoid the brownface issue of the original film, Steven Spielberg specifically asked for Latino actors for the Shark auditions. To a lesser extent, Spielberg also averted the Latino Is Brown trope present in the 1961 film by casting Latino actors across several ethnicities. For instance, Rachel Zegler (Maria) is of Colombian decent and Ariana DeBose (Anita) is Afro-Latina. Ariana even feared she was too dark for the role, but Spielberg insisted she was perfect.

Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner previously worked together on Munich (2005) and Lincoln (2012). They are also working together on the upcoming film The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, and an untitled film inspired by Spielberg's own childhood.

Mike Faist's portrayal of Riff has been singled out as a highlight by many fans and critics with much praise going to how he captures Riff's dangerous side and volatility but also his vulnerability and charisma, even earning praise from former Riff actor Russ Tamblyn.

When Tony is singing "Maria" outside the tenement, in the background is graffiti on a wall behind him that says "Chita." Presumably, this is a nod to Chita Rivera, the original Anita on Broadway.

Mike Faist, who was already trim to begin with, dropped 20 pounds for the film to give Riff a malnourished look similar to that of a 1950s gang member he saw a picture of during his research. Director Steven Spielberg actually had to step in to tell him to stop losing weight so he didn't endanger his health.

A significant difference with the Sharks is that they were formed to defend their community from the harassment and pretty crimes of the Jets, and are considered to be heroes by the Puerto Ricans.

In an episode of How to with John Wilson (2020), there are scenes where the streets of New York are dressed to be the set of "West Side Story" during filming.

Like with the 1961 film and stage productions, no one in the two gangs is played by a teen, while they're supposed to be. The closest was Rachel Zegler, who hit 18 just before filming began and thus was the same age as Maria.

This is Steven Spielberg's first remake since War of the Worlds (2005).

While he died two weeks before the release, Stephen Sondheim was able to see the final cut of the film and remarked that he preferred this version to the 1961 original.

Eight cast members have appeared in either the Broadway or the touring cast of Disney's Newsies. On Broadway Mike Faist (Riff) played Morris Delancey/Mike/Jack Kelly understudy, Kyle Coffman (Ice) played Henry, Jess LeProtto (A-Rab) played Buttons, Garett Hawe (Skink) played Albert, Jacob Guzman (Junior) played Sniper, David Guzman (Tino) played Mush, and John Michael Fiumara (Big Deal) played Specs. Ben Cook (Mouthpiece) played Racetrack in the Newsies touring cast.

Rachel Zegler played Maria onstage at the Bergen Performing Arts Center at the age of 16 before being cast for the film.

For Rachel Zegler, who had never acted in any professional capacity before she won the role of Maria in the open casting call. Even before the film was released, the word getting out that Spielberg cast her as a lead was apparently enough for her to land important roles in the sequel to SHAZAM! and the live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

This is Rachel Zegler's first foray into film, she was cast due to impressing director Steven Spielberg with her singing on YouTube.

Anybodys is stated to be a trans man in this version, and is played by non-binary actor Iris Menas.

In the 1961 version of West Side Story most of the people playing Puerto Ricans were not. The two main characters Bernardo and Maria were played by a Greek American man and Russian American Woman. In the adaptation almost 2/3 of the cast playing Puerto Ricans are while the rest are of Latinx heritage.

During "America," a group of Puerto Rican protesters can be seen. One of them holds a sign mentioning Robert Moses, who oversaw New York City's post-war urban development and was responsible for displacing several ethnic communities in favor of his construction projects. Needless to say, Moses remains one of the most controversial figures in New York's history.

Tony Kushner's script also gives more focus to the individual Sharks, who, outside of Bernardo and to a much lesser extent Chino, were much more out of focus compared to the Jets in previous versions.

Made only $30 million in North America, and $55.2 million worldwide, a disastrous result considering the acclaimed movie cost $100 million to make, despite out-grossing two other live-action musical film adaptations, In the Heights (2021) and Dear Evan Hansen (2021), also released in 2021.

All the Latino actors from the film, barring a few ones, reprise their roles in the Latin American and European Spanish dubs.

Brian d'Arcy James is a Tony nominated Broadway star, both regarded as an excellent singer and dancer. He plays Officer Krupke who does neither of those things.

Tony Kushner, the screenwriter of the film, also wrote the screenplay of Steven Spielberg's film Munich (2005), which was Kushner's first work as a screenwriter.

West Side Story (1961) was directed by Robert Wise, who later directed The Andromeda Strain (1971), which was based on a Michael Crichton novel. Steven Spielberg actually met Crichton on the set of that film, which would later play a part in him adapting Crichton's novels in Jurassic Park (1993) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997).

One of Steven Spielberg's first films, 1941 (1979) originally was going to be a musical.

Unique to the casting in this film, since Tony has always been Polish-American. The Puerto Rican Bernardo dislikes his sister Maria's dalliance with Tony, whom he calls a "[stupid] Polack". Maria is played by Rachel Zegler, who is partly of Polish descent.

The first Steven Spielberg-directed film from 20th Century Studios to have the studio's production logo play normally with its fanfare at the beginning of the film since Lincoln (2012), after being sped up and kept silent on Bridge of Spies (2015) and The Post (2017).

Kevin Csolak, Ben Cook, and Jonalyn Saxer were all ensemble members of the original Broadway cast of "Mean Girls".

The first film adaptation of this musical to receive an MPAA rating. Steven Spielberg's version is rated PG-13, while West Side Story (1961) has not received a rating.

In the French subtitled version (and possibly other subtitled versions) only when the characters speak English is it subtitled, not when they speak Spanish. This seems to defy the point that Spielberg intended in not subtitling the Spanish in English speaking countries, that is so that both languages are represented "equally". In the subtitled version of the film, it seems like the English is "worthy" of translation but not the Spanish.

David Alvarez (Bernardo) is Cuban-Canadian.

In a 2020 interview, Spielberg told Vanity Fair: "West Side Story was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed into the home. I... fell completely in love with it as a kid."

Stephen Sondheim, as the only one of the four creative minds behind the original show who was still living during the film's production, was involved throughout filming and after seeing the film gave it high praise. He passed away two weeks before the release.

Released a few weeks after the 60th anniversary of the Robert Wise film (October 18, 1961), a few days after the 40th anniversary of Natalie Wood's death (November 29, 1981) and the day before the 90th birthday of Rita Moreno.

Steven Spielberg wanted to make this film as far back as 2014.

Much like his predecessor Russ Tamblyn, Mike Faist originally auditioned for Tony before the creators asked him to read for Riff.

The musical and 1961 film's scripts were both full of made up slang used by the Jets that sounds like complete Narm in the modern day. Tony Kushner's screenplay for this film removes all of it and uses more timeless dialogue.

Since the West Side of Manhattan had long been redeveloped and gentrified since the time of the original musical and filming of the 1961 adaptation, the film was shot in various other locations in the New York City area that more closely resemble how the neighborhood used to look, including Harlem, Brooklyn and Newark and Paterson in New Jersey.

While Tony is stated to be of Polish descent, Ansel Elgort is Russian Jewish on his father's side and Norwegian, English, and German on his mother's.

Released just six months after the film adaptation of another iconic stage musical centered on struggles in a Hispanic neighborhood of New York City, In the Heights. Both actually share some filming locations.

Russ Tamblyn (Riff in the 1961 film) loved the film and Mike Faist's portrayal of Riff.

Ben Cook plays Mouthpiece here, and also played Riff in the latest Broadway revival, which he did after shooting this movie but before the film had come out. He was only part of the already short lived production for a bit though, as an injury caused him to back out early on.

Doreen Montalvo, who briefly appears in "America" as one of the protesters, died in October 2020.

Some sound elements were recorded/mixed on Twentieth Century Fox's "Robert Wise Stage" in Los Angeles. Robert Wise was the director of West Side Story (1961).

In this version Maria works in Gimbel's department store. Gimbel's features as the rival store to Macy's in _Miracle on 34th Street (1947)_(qv) which starred Natalie Wood who played Maria in the 1961 West Side Story.

Ansel Elgort naturally did his own climbing on the fire escape of Maria's building. He tried to convince the production not to put a safety harness on him.

Not the first time Mike Faist played a troubled, unsympathetic youth in a musical the first being Dear Evan Hansen.

Emma Stone, Kristen Bell, and Jennifer Lawrence were rumored for roles, but those rumors were debunked.

It was speculated that Camila Cabello had won the role of Maria after she posted a photo of Claire Danes as Juliet in Romeo + Juliet (1996) on Twitter during the time that casting took place. This movie is, of course, a modern retelling of Romeo & Juliet with Maria being an updated version of Juliet. Rachel Zegler was eventually cast, but Cabello did go on to lead a movie musical of her own, as she starred in Amazon's Cinderella (2021).

David Alvarez came out of retirement from acting to work with Steven Spielberg.

West Side Story (1961) featured future Twin Peaks (1990) cast members Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn. Steven Spielberg once tried to direct an episode, but had to withdraw due to scheduling issues. He has worked with several Twin Peaks cast members himself: Don S. Davis in Hook (1991), Laura Dern in Jurassic Park (1993), and Ian Abercrombie in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). Jurassic Park III (2001), which he produced, also featured Téa Leoni, then-wife of Twin Peaks cast member David Duchovny.

The film has received rapturous acclaim from both critics and audiences alike, receiving boatloads of awards nominations, with many stating in some ways it might even be superior to Robert Wise's/Jerome Robbins' hallowed, Oscar sweeping, pop culture landmark '61 adaptation. This did not however translate to success at the box office, as in its first weekend it grossed a little over $10 million, against a $100 million budget. The heavily-anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home coming out a week later, combined with the increasing spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, would hamper its performance even further.

Steven Spielberg and Robert Wise, who directed West Side Story (1961), both directed a film starring Richard Attenborough. Wise directed him in The Sand Pebbles (1966), and Spielberg did so in Jurassic Park (1993). Attenborough also appeared in Miracle on 34th Street (1994) which, like this film, is a remake of a film that starred Natalie Wood.

West Side Story (1961) featured John Astin as Glad Hand, the social worker who officiates the dance. Astin appeared in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), which Steven Spielberg produced. Spielberg also produced The Goonies (1985) which starred Sean Astin.

Original cast members Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn later appeared on Twin Peaks (1990) with Miguel Ferrer and, in its 2017 revival, Laura Dern. Ansel Elgort appeared in The Fault in Our Stars (2014) with Dern and Nat Wolff, who appeared in The Stand (2020) in a role originally played by Ferrer.

The 1961 film featured Rita Moreno as Anita, and John Astin in a small role. It also won Best Picture. John Astin's son, Sean Astin, appeared in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which also won Best Picture. Bilbo Baggins was played in that film by Ian Holm, who had previously appeared as Frodo in a radio production. Moreno and Holm also both shared scenes with their respective successors, Ariana DeBose and Elijah Wood.

While Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the USA, Rachel Zegler doesn't have a background from there (she's of Colombian and Polish descent).

According to the script, Tony and Riff are supposed to be 18. Ansel Elgort was 25 and Mike Faist was 27 when the film was made. Ironically, they were both older than Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn, respectively, were when the original film was shot in 1960.

In this version, Diesel, Snowboy, and Baby John are vaguely aware that Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States and thus Puerto Ricans are also American citizens.

When the bartender aims the gun at Riff, it wasn't scripted for him to place his head against the barrel, but a moment that actor Mike Faist improvised. The production crew loved it, as they felt it perfectly fit their version of Riff's character.

Rita Moreno claimed that her most difficult scene was when Valentina (Doc in the 1961 film) saves Anita from being assaulted in the candy store, due to having originally played the same scene as Anita and responded same dialogue from Valentina/Doc. It was only with greatest difficulty that Moreno was able to stay in character as Valentina and not flub the take out of disassociation.

The last shot of the film is very similar to the final shot of West Side Story (1961), in which the camera pulls back to a high angle and the last action seen in long shot before fading to black is Chino's arrest.

The song "I Feel Pretty" is here presented faithfully to the musical after the rumble has taken place and Riff and Bernardo have been killed. The song takes on dramatic irony in the context of Maria being unaware of what has happened. West Side Story (1961) moved the song to before the rumble in order to remove the irony and play the song lighthearted. Lyricist Stephen Sondheim has since advocated removing the song from productions entirely, believing it slows down the pacing, and that the intended irony is lost.