Stephen Sondheim died just a few weeks ago at the age of 91.
The 75 year old Steven Spielberg explained how on the set of the movie he gave deference to his elder Steven Sondheim, seeing as how the two had the same initials “SS.”
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On the set of West Side Story Sondheim was known as “SS1” and Spielberg was “SS2.” And on their friendship, Spielberg said that Sondheim was, “as much of a cineaste as Scorsese or myself, and that he had seen the most obscure movies. So we began this tremendous back-and-forth on email for almost 18 months and he became a very good friend. We would recommend films to each other, then we’d watch them and get on the phone or email about them.”
On making a remake, the first time that Spielberg has done so, he told The Guardian “I never would have dared go near it had it only been a film. 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 also thought about not making the new film a musical. “I chickened out after the first week of shooting and took all the songs out,” he said. “It was the biggest paradigm shift I’ve ever had while directing a movie. It just didn’t seem right for some strange reason. Maybe I didn’t feel ready to do a musical. I was OK doing those little numbers in 1941 or Temple of Doom, and later there was a kind of zero-gravity dance to the Bee Gees in Ready Player One. I had a couple of false starts, too, with scripts that I began developing into original musicals. At some point, I decided I had to have the courage of my convictions.”
As for the new movie, as of Wednesday it has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
#WestSideStory star David Alvarez recalls meeting the late Stephen Sondheim: “He’s one of those artists who really checks you and reminds you to be honest, to be grounded and to do it for the love and the passion.” https://t.co/8niiTHbDkG
— Variety (@Variety) December 8, 2021
CNN said, “Ultimately, “West Side Story” passes the “why” test and will likely leave fans debating which version they prefer. Even those of the opinion there wasn’t a burning need for a redo — reimagined or otherwise — should conclude there’s a place for this one too.”
The Hollywood Reporter said, “The production is equal parts grit and gloss. The expert period recreation of Adam Stockhausen’s production design and Paul Tazewell’s fabulous costumes create a throbbing sense of place, evident in every gorgeously composed widescreen frame of Kaminski’s visuals. Yet the saturated colors and their radiant glow often recall vintage Technicolor movie musicals. Perhaps those pretty CG-enhanced skies that are such a part of the Spielberg Amblin signature could have been toned down a notch. But there’s no pain in surrendering to the sheer beauty and high style of a big-screen entertainment that’s both a reimagining informed by contemporary values and a lavishly mounted throwback.”