Steven Spielberg Explains Why He Had To Make West Side Story

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“West Side Story” tells the tale of two young people from different groups who fall in love, but are pulled apart by the divide between their cultures and circumstances. The book it was based on was inspired by William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” if that helps you get a mental picture. 

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Spielberg explains in the above video how this musical spoke to him as a child. The script was influenced by how things have — and haven’t — changed since the time the musical was made. He said:

“So, 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 have been able to fulfill that dream and keep that promise that I made to myself; you must make ‘West Side Story.’

“Divisions between unlike-minded people is as old as time itself. 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, which took five years, 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.”

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