Entertainment

There’s A Casting Call For A ‘West Side Story’ Remake, And Producers Are Looking For Latino Actors To Star

west side story
Instagram/@brandontreakle, @strangerworldofcoolthings

Steven Spielberg is remaking “West Side Story” and people are flipping out!

It’s been reported that Spielberg is directing a remake of the 1961 musical classic “West Side Story.” Spielberg is apparently keeping very busy these days. The legendary director is also working on directing the fifth installment to the Indiana Jones franchise next year, which is set to be released in 2020, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Aside from directing this new and exciting version of “West Side Story,” Spielberg is full immersed in the casting details for this project as well.

The main reason people are thrilled over this new version is because the main characters must be Spanish-speaking Latinos.

The casting notice clearly indicates that the lead actors must be able to sing and dance, as would be expected. However, the call also says actors must be Spanish-speaking Latinos, as the characters were intended to be.

If you don’t know the film or even the musical it’s based off of, it’s your basic Romeo and Juliet story but instead of Verona  in the 1300s, “West Side Story” is set in Manhattan in the 1950s. It has yet to be revealed if the remake will also take place in that era or in present day.

The main characters are Tony and Maria, a caucasian boy and Puerto Rican girl who fall for each other despite their love being forbidden. There’s also Bernardo, Maria’s big brother and a gang leader who had beautifully choreographed dance fights against the rival gang, the Jets. His girlfriend, Anita, was Maria’s best friend and confidant who could dance up a storm.

As you may recall in the original film, the lead actors were not Puerto Rican except for Rita Moreno, who played Anita.

The white actors who starred in the film wore brown makeup and affected thick, inauthentic accents. The lead role of Maria was played by Natalie Wood, who didn’t actually do any of her own singing for the film.

The casting notice is out and producers are looking for a Tony, Maria, Anita, and Bernardo.

It’s also being reported that the new version of “West Side Story” will include the very talented Lin-Manuel Miranda. In the 2009 Broadway production of “West Side Story,” the song “I Feel Pretty” was altered to be sung in Spanish, with new lyrics translated by Miranda.

It’s clear that studio heads are finally taking notice that people are tired of #OscarsSoWhite and hiring Latinos for major Hollywood roles.

Here’s how people are taking the news on social media.


READ: Latinos Recall The First Time They Felt Represented In Movies And TV

Are you excited about seeing the remake of “West Side Story”? Let us know by sharing this story and commenting below!

There Is Going To Be A Remake Of Disney’s ‘Hercules’ And It Is Going To Have An All Black Cast

Entertainment

There Is Going To Be A Remake Of Disney’s ‘Hercules’ And It Is Going To Have An All Black Cast

There’s a new live-action stage version of Disney’s 1997 animated film “Hercules” at the Public Theater in New York City — and Hercules is Black as hell

In 1997, San Francisco Gate’s Peter Sack described the film as, “The great old Greek is turned into a ’90s-style athlete who gets endorsements, sandals named after him and a chance to stand tall among nymphs and muses.”

Sound familiar to you? Lest we not forget this was the same era that Michael Jordan did Space Jam and Shaquille O’Neal did Kazaam. The original animated film took inspiration from major athletes of the time and thus, it inevitably heavily references Black and hood ’90s culture. If you watch it now the sneakers, the gospel music, the humor, it probably seems so obvious. 

One might wonder with all these references to the Black popular culture of the ’90s, why didn’t the creators just make Hercules Black? Well, they finally have.

The story of Hercules.  

While most of us were forced to read and re-read Hercules in secondary school, not everyone may know the story. Hercules is the son of the king and queen of the gods, Zeus and Hera. When a prophecy foretells that he will eventually defeat the god of the underworld, Hades, Hercules is kidnapped as an infant. Unable to kill him, Hades is able to take his immortality away but not his strength. The baby Hercules is raised by a mortal couple. At 18 he figures out his real origins and is determined to become a hero so that he can return to Mount Olympus with the gods.

Meet your new Hercules.

Hercules at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, through The Public Theater’s Public Works Program is based on the 1997 animated film, and has kept Alan Menken’s musical score. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he also created the music for Disney’s Aladdin. Jelani Alladin stars as the demi-god Hercules. Krysta Rodriguez plays his love interest Megara.

The difference between the stage musical and the film is that Disney has finally chosen to embrace their story’s Blackness. Rather than simply coding their narrative as one with allusions to Black culture, they’ve put that Blackness at the forefront and center. That’s what we call growth! Everybody loves Black culture, it’s time we start loving the people who make it. 

Danielle C. Belton of The Root describes the original as having flirted with African-American culture, while this new version embraces a multicultural cast. 

“While the film Hercules only flirted with African-American music and culture—the muses who were the “Greek chorus” throughout the film were patterned after classic, Motown-style Black ‘50s girl groups,” she writes. “This version of ancient Greece and the Greco-Roman gods features quite a few Black, Asian and Latinx people, including Jelani Alladin as the titular teenaged Hercules, and, of course—all five of the doo-wopping muses are…sistas with voices.”

How Hercules gave nods to Black culture. 

Hercules is something of a hood icon. It was the first time many kids probably saw Black women portrayed as the muses and Greek chorus. This gaggle of doo-wopping muses sang the funky, soulful Hercules theme. There were also pivotal aspects of hood culture, some of it is even social commentary. Hercules’s character is parallel to the superstar basketball players of the ’90s, their rabid fans, and endorsement deals. The creators, Ron Clements and John Musker, even referred to Hercules as the Michael Jordan of his time. 

In the movie, we see a young Hercules’ as he rises to fame for being a demi-God with some serious strength. When the hero-worship begins, he snags a sweet endorsement deal — but these aren’t Nike Jordans — they’re fresh to death Hercules sandals called Air-Hercs. When the villain Hades sees that one of his minions is rocking the Hercules sandals his response is simple and iconic: what are those?The phrase has now become a popular meme on Black Twitter going so far as being referenced in the “Black Panther” movieThe hero even has his own version of a Gatorade sponsorship, the drink is called “Herculade.”

A Latinx Megara embraces feminism.

Unlike other Disney women of the era, Megara was never waiting to be saved. She was sarcastic, witty, and pretty unimpressed with Hercules’ attempts to holler at her. Krysa Rodriguez’ Megara puts feminism at the forefront — again we see subtle codes made explicit. 

“In a new song, a pants-clad Meg imagines a world without men, envisioning it as a utopia where she could do as she pleases. A dopey, lovestruck Hercules, seeking to demonstrate his feminist credentials, replies clumsily, ‘My mom’s a woman,’” writes Adrienne Westenfeld for Esquire.

Diversity is always an improvement. We live in a multicultural world, there is never anything wrong with reflecting that in the stories we tell. After all, it’s the stories we tell that teach us who we are and who we will become. For Hercules that is learning the truth about his traumatic past to create a better future — for America, well, it’s no different.

Apparently PBS Is Making A Documentary About Boricua Queen Rita Moreno And Get Ready To Unleash The Tears

Entertainment

Apparently PBS Is Making A Documentary About Boricua Queen Rita Moreno And Get Ready To Unleash The Tears

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Rita Moreno is one of those legendary forces in the Latinx community that we all hold a special place in our hearts for. She’s the first Latina to be nominated for and to win an Academy Award and she has given life to some of the most memorable characters on film, stage and TV screen. 

Now, the talented Boricua will be honored with a documentary all about her fascinating life. 

The new PBS documentary will focus on some of Moreno’s most notable life experiences and will also cover some darker and more private aspects of her 87 years. 

Twitter / @TalkoftheTownPR

Called “Rita Moreno: The Girl Who Decided to Go for It,” the documentary will feature the actress’ career highlights but will also focus on some rarely discussed moments of her life. For example, in the documentary, Moreno opens up about her attempted suicide that occurred just a year before she won an Oscar for her role as Anita in “West Side Story.” 

The Latina shared via a statement just how moved she is to be the focus of this documentary.

“How I wish my Puerto Rican mother were alive to see this: her child’s story being celebrated. It is not something she or I could ever have imagined. I’m astonished. I’m humbled.” 

Moreno’s career has really come full circle. While she will continue her role as Lydia in “One Day At a Time,” she is also playing Valentina in the 2019 remake of “West Side Story.”

The documentary is being produced by “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda, the acclaimed television producer Norman Lear and documentary filmmaker Michael Kantor.

Twitter / @Lin_Manuel

 Needless to say, fellow Puerto Rican, Miranda, is thrilled to be part of a project that immortalizes Moreno. 

“Rita is La Reina. Punto. Full stop,” executive producer Miranda expressed in a statement upon the documentary’s announcement. “Her life, talent, and career is a masterclass in the American dream. It is about time that she takes her rightful place amongst her peers on American Masters.”

The Moreno documentary will air in 2020 as part of the PBS American Masters series. According to PBS, it will feature animation, archival recordings, and reenactments from Moreno’s life. Some of the actresses closest friends and co-workers will also provide interviews for the film.

The documentary is being directed by fellow Latina, Mariem Pérez Riera. 

Twitter / @DeepFinds

In order to be true to Moreno’s story, it had to be driven by people who understand what the actress has gone through as a woman and as a member of the Latinidad. To do so, director Mariem Pérez Riera was hired to bring her vision to life. Riera has previous experience with heading up documentaries. In 2016, she directed “De Puerto Rico Para el Mundo” and “Croatto, la Huella de un Emigrante.” Both films focus on the Latinidad — a subject close to her heart. 

“As a filmmaker, woman and Puerto Rican, I am proud to have the opportunity to tell Rita’s story,” Riera shared when the documentary was announced. “Her many victories in the face of prejudice are an inspiration to me. Hopefully, this film will give strength to the women all over the world, who today, face a similar fight towards equality.” 

Of course, Latinx Twitter was quick to celebrate this new documentary and it’s a very deserving subject. 

Twitter / @OhCuevas

That dancing baby in this tweet’s GIF? That’s totally us. We are so excited to learn more about one of our favorite Latina actresses. Seeing her get the respect she deserves makes us want to celebrate. 

This tweet reminded us just how long Moreno’s career spans.

Twitter / @NewportLaura

Some of us grew up with her as Anita. Some of us know her from the “Electric Company.” Still, others will always know her as the voice of the original Carmen Sandiego. No matter where you know her from, it’s easy to see that her career has been long and lucrative.  

Some Twitter users pointed out the importance of illuminating other peoples stories, just as Manuel and other producers are doing with Moreno’s story in this documentary

Twitter / @K_bowes

The only way we will continue to see our stories being told is if we help others in the Latinidad tell theirs. We’re glad to see that Manuel and Riera — fellow Puerto Ricans — have such important roles in making this documentary a reality. 

Other Twitter users shared their joy over the celebration of Moreno’s life and legacy. 

Twitter / @smiletoobig

Moreno is La Reina and we are so ecstatic that she’s getting the love she so obviously has earned. A career as impressive as hers deserves major props and we can’t wait to watch this documentary honoring her remarkable life. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TS3sEaGS8c0