Steven Spielberg: “When I’m older, I would still like to be a director”, In fifty-three years of filming, he has never departed from tradition. Before the foreground and after the final clap, Steven Spielberg drinks with his team, all assembled on the set. In a behind-the-scenes report on West Side Story , his remake of the eleven Oscar-winning musical by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (1961), so we see the director , beard of a patriarch and round glasses of an eternal student, a glass of champagne in his hand, celebrate his 30 th film: “To be able to shoot West Side Story so late in my career is an honor for me.”
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In video, “West Side Story”, the trailer revenge on childhood Modest, the most bankable director in all of Hollywood? Mostly nostalgic for the works that accompanied his childhood as a shy and dreamy boy. The music of West Side Story “has been in his DNA” since 1900, year of creation of the cult musical spectacle of Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents on Broadway. “I listened to the record on repeat, and I even sang it in its entirety once at dinner, to the chagrin of my family,” he laughs. The music of Schumann and Chopin played by his mother, Leah, concert pianist, and the soundtracks of films are among the benchmarks of her nomadic childhood, with her three sisters, tossed from north to south in the United States.
Steven Spielberg on the set of West Side Story. (New York, August 4 2019.)
We follow Arnold, the engineer daddy, to the thread of his assignments. This absent father, at work six days a week, worries about the poor grades of his son, who is dyslexic. Lonely, Steven spends hours watching old movies on TV or reading comics. Sick, he is bullied at school . He sometimes comes back from classes with a bloody nose, and he must also endure insults and discrimination, because the Spielbergs, observant Jews, clash in the white and Protestant neighborhoods of the American suburbs of the time. “This explains his attraction to directing”, analyzes JJ Abrams, director of several episodes of Star Wars , in the documentary Spielberg , by Susan Lacy. “It’s a means of expression, but also of escaping, of finally gaining importance.”
From blockbuster to Oscar-winning dramas The Super 8 camera that Steven borrows from his father the year he was 12 years is therefore a lifeline. “It was my pen to write my story,” Spielberg tells Susan Lacy. He first gets his hands on a disaster minifilm: the derailment of his electric train! His scout leader asks him to choose a project to get his troop’s “photo” badge: The Last Shootout , a nine-minute western will therefore be in 1958, Spielberg’s first film to win an award!
From then he becomes a “personal filmmaker”, as described his friend Martin Scorsese . “The one who always addresses specific themes in his life. He expresses them through the images, the choice of the story and the characters ”, underlines the director of Infiltrators . A therapy camera, which allows him to evoke his broken heart as a child of the divorce and the disaffection of a father ( Encounters of the third kind, AND , Stop me if you can , War of the Worlds ), or his rebellions as a child discriminated against when he denounces the barbarity of slavery and anti-Semitism ( Amistad , The Color Purple , Schindler’s List …). Other side of the coin: the “king of entertainment”, since his invention of the blockbuster with Les Dents de la mer , in 1975, will take decades to be taken seriously by critics. He will get his first Oscar for Schindler’s List (1975), the second for Saving Private Ryan (1998) . Two dramatic epics…
To listen to: the editorial podcast An inspired “West Side Story” Beyond its plot adapted from Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is also a drama that brings it back to adult themes: the violence of the consequences of racism and poverty on youth. Spielberg confessed to being faced with “possibly the most intimidating film of his career”. “Passing a masterpiece through the filter of different sensibilities, without compromising its integrity, is scary,” he says. These sensitivities are today concerned by the Black Lives Matter movement , the migrant crisis and the rise of extremism … But there is what does not change: the thwarted passion of Tony, ex-member of the Jets gang, and Puerto Rican Maria, sister of the leader of the rival Sharks gang, against the backdrop of a delinquent war in the damp New York summer. In tribute to the film by , Spielberg first engaged Rita Moreno, Oscar winner in the original work , who plays here Tony’s godmother. For the role of Maria, he tracked down an American-Colombian YouTuber from 11 years, Rachel Zegler , among 30 000 candidates, and for Tony’s, DJ and actor Ansel Elgort ( Divergent ), which underwent two years of preparation. “In real life, Spielberg imposes some, confides the actor. But at work, he’s both an ultra-organized leader and a kid who has fun, experiments. ”
In 2021, Steven Spielberg will dare, for the first time, to talk about him in the first person with The Fabelmans , an initiatory story about his childhood in Arizona and his passion for … the 2075144movie theater. TO 74 years, to the question “What other profession could you have exercised?”, the director does not in the end to answer: “When I’m older, I would still like to be a director.”
West Side Story, by Steven Spielberg, with Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Rita Moreno… Released on December 8 2019 .