There are only a couple of titles left to catch that are ostensibly in the running for the Best Picture statuette this year, and near the apex of that list is Steven Spielberg's Christmas-pegged remake of West Side Story, written by Angels in America scribe Tony Kushner.
What we have seen bodes a promising reimagining of the classic musical: Rachel Zegler looks to be the newest star to be born, and, well... have you seen those cocktail dresses? Spielberg, you sartorial saint! Now, in an exclusive interview with Empire, the Hollywood legend has detailed some of the work that went into his recreation of one of the original film's most iconic moments: the school dance.
In the piece, Spielberg outlines the work it took to achieve the scene of the Sharks entering the gym, shot in an "extended, elaborate, single-take shot," which took a helluva lot of coordination to "move the camera (and himself) around in the way Spielberg envisioned". He elaborates:
"The camera was on a Spidercam rig. [...] The oner was very hard to achieve because everything is timed to the beat. You can't be a note off in either direction."
The piece debuts a great new set photo, too, which sees Spielberg - head to toe in a chic aqua number (see? Sartorial. Saint!) - hard at work measuring up a shot.
As Empire reflects, the director is no stranger to long takes - they mention the likes of the drinking competition in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Helen Hirsch's monologue in Schindler's List, but how's about some of the extended landscape shots in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? (Fine, they're not long takes, but that film doesn't exactly utilize a fast cutting rate, particularly in the last act.) It's exciting, nevertheless, the see how the film vet pulls it together. Also revealed is that this scene was the first Zegler worked on, marking her collaborative debut with Spielberg. Imagine that pressure. In her words:
"That was my first day shooting; it was terrifying. [...] Steven wanted it to feel like it could actually happen while still keeping that dreamy aspect. It turns into a little bit of a mating dance. It's a really sweet moment under the smelly bleachers at a gym."
Ah, yes, that old, conventional locale for all of life's sweetest moments: in the shade of the noxious gym seats. Hopefully they were handing out clothes pegs.
Check out the set photo below. West Side Story comes to theatres on December 10. It also stars Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Corey Stoll, and Brian d'Arcy James, with a supporting turn from EGOT-winner and star of the original Rita Moreno.
It’s a simple spell but quite unbreakable.
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