Meeting the man behind the music was a dream come true for the cast of “West Side Story”.
This week, Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Rita Moreno, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez and Mike Faist sat down for a SiriusXM Town Hall special hosted by Jess Cagle.
Asked about whether they had any vivid memories of meeting musical composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who died last last month as 91, during recording sessions for the film, Zegler said, “Extremely vivid. It was like a dream for a lot of us.”
She added, “The reason I got into musicals was because I heard Sweeney Todd at such a young age, and I just loved all of it.”
Elgort revealed that after the recording, sensing his nervousness, Sondheim told him while they were alone in an elevator together, “The most important thing a young performer can have is confidence.”
Elgort and Zegler also opened up about the year-long audition process for Steve Spielberg’s musical remake.
They all ended up learning they were cast thanks to personal calls from Spielberg, except, as DeBose points out, for Zegler, who was brought into a meeting where she was told the good news.
“I don’t want to brag,” Zegler joked.
DeBose also talks about playing the role of Anita in the film, and why she decided to play the character as “unapologetically Black.”
She explains, “I just think it gives it some depth that perhaps has never been allowed to be explored. Because you don’t see Afro-Latinas really in lead characters in this way, often.”
Also in the interview, Moreno, who also starred as Anita in the original 1961 film, opens up about ageism in the industry, being a Puerto Rican actress in the 1950s and more.
Finally, the cast talk about how experts and real people who lived in New York during the period the film is set in were brought on board in the making of the film to help ground the film historically.