STEVEN SPIELBERG'S DIALOGUE TWEAK IN WEST SIDE STORY NODS TO HIS FRIEND, BRIAN DE PALMA
"So listen, everybody dress up sweet and sharp," says Riff, played by Russ Tamblyn, in the 1961 film version of West Side Story. "Meet Tony and me at the dance at, uh, 10. And walk tall!"
In his new version of West Side Story, Steven Spielberg tweaks that dialogue a little bit, and he manages to cleverly throw in a nod to the title of a Brian De Palma film from 1980: "Be there, 10PM, punctual-like, dressed to kill, walkin' tall!"
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Guardian's Ryan Gilbey, Spielberg talks about being the last one of the "Movie Brats" to make a musical:
The most famous and widely cherished film-maker in history is all twinkling eyes and gee-whiz charm today. He is about to turn 75 but first there is the release of his muscular new take on West Side Story, which marks his third collaboration with the playwright Tony Kushner, who also scripted Munich and Lincoln. Spielberg is at pains to point out that this not a remake of the Oscar-laden movie but a reimagining of the original stage musical. “I never would have dared go near it had it only been a film,” he says. “But, because it’s constantly being performed across the globe, I didn’t feel I was claim-jumping on my friend Robert Wise’s 1961 movie.”
Spielberg and West Side Story go back further than that. He was 10 when he became obsessed with the Broadway cast album, which his father brought home in 1957. He even got in trouble for belting out the show’s comedy number Gee, Officer Krupke. “With my dad right across from me and my mother next to me, I sang, ‘My father is a bastard / My ma’s an SOB … ’ Oh my God, they got so mad. ‘You can’t say “bastard” at the dinner table! Where did you learn that?’ I said, ‘It’s on your record!’”
It was Jerome Robbins who had the idea of transposing Romeo and Juliet to New York’s Upper West Side. Leonard Bernstein provided the score, Arthur Laurents the script and a young greenhorn named Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics. Tony and Maria, played in Spielberg’s version by Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler, were the star-cross’d lovers, while two warring gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, stood in for the Montagues and Capulets. Which gang did the young film-maker run with during his adolescence in Arizona and California? “Me in a gang?” he splutters. “Yeah, right! No, I was in the Boy Scouts of America. And a movie club. My friends and I made movies on 8mm when we were 12 or 13 so I was just part of that nerdy, geeky little club.”
He did, however, come to be known in the 1970s as one of the Movie Brats, so-called because they were the first generation of US film-makers to have absorbed much of their education from the screen and went on to electrify and transform Hollywood. Of that quintet – Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese were the others – Spielberg was the only one who hadn’t made a leap into musicals. “Francis did it with Finian’s Rainbow, Brian with Phantom of the Paradise, Marty with New York, New York. I do think you have to consider American Graffiti to be George’s musical. Which means all the Movie Brats have done it now, and I was the last. I’m proud to be the caboose.”