Steven Spielberg discusses West Side Story

Director Steven Spielberg discusses West Side Story

December 5, 2021 A DGA Membership Screening Q&A in Los Angeles

A beloved story of forbidden love is revisited in Director Steven Spielberg’s musical drama, West Side Story.

Spielberg’s film retells the story of Tony and Maria, two teenagers from different ethnic backgrounds and rival gangs, who fall in love in 1950s New York City. But tensions between their respective friends sets them on a path toward tragedy.

On December 5, after the DGA membership screening in Los Angeles, Spielberg discussed the making of West Side Story during a Q&A moderated by Director Damien Chazelle (Babylon).

During the conversation, the veteran Director revealed something new he learned while making this film. “The thing about musicals, which I didn’t know beforehand, is with musicals there are two more tools in your toolbox. There’s dance and there’s song. It creates an esprit de corps. It creates daily happiness and also a lot of hard work and a lot of fear of our dancers getting hurt or slipping. I wouldn’t let [DP] Janusz [Kaminski] wet down any streets at all. It drove him crazy.  But there was a happiness every single day because the music does something to you when you’re making a movie. I wanted the cast to feel like they were part of the creative process so after every really good take the entire cast squeezed into the video village to look at the playbacks. They would love it and it made them all feel like they were all working on this as an ensemble, as a family. I haven’t felt this intimacy on a movie set since E.T. and that was a long time ago.”

In addition to West Side Story, Spielberg’s directorial credits include the feature films, Sugarland Express, 1941, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Always, Hook, Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, A.I., Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds, The Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn, War Horse, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, The Post and Ready Player One. He won DGA Awards for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for The Color Purple, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan; and was nominated for DGA Awards in that same category for Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, Empire of the Sun, Amistad and Munich. In 2000, Mr. Spielberg was honored with the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Spielberg has been a member of the Guild since 1971 and currently serves on the DGA National Board and the Western Directors Council.

You can listen to Spielberg's Q&A by clicking the podcast episode embedded below. You can find more DGA podcast episodes here.


Q&A photos by Elisa Haber – Print courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

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