tv Talking Movies BBC News December 20, 2021 2:30pm-3:01pm GMT
hello from new york. i am tom brook and welcome to talking movies. today, our entire programme is devoted to what must rank as one of the big movie events of 2021, the release of steven spielberg's long—awaited adaptation of the much—loved broadway musical west side story. i have never seen you before. you are not puerto rican. is that 0k? do you want to start world war three? west side story is a love story inspired by shakespeare's romeo and juliet, set amid warring teenage gangs — the sharks and thejets — in new york in the 1950s. it is an adaptation of the 1957 musical from four greats — director and choreographer jerome robbins, composer leonard bernstein, arthur laurents who did the book, and lyricist stephen sondheim. at the world premiere of his adaptation of west side story, stephen spielberg made it clear he was indebted to all the musicals�* creative forefathers.
the first feeling is gratitude and such an honour to be able to have been entrusted by the trustees and stephen sondheim to be able to make our west side story. # skyscrapers bloom in america. # cadillacs zoom in america. stephen sondheim was notjust a lyricist of the 1957 broadway west side story musical, but also for the 1961 movie and speilberg's new film. sadly, he died at the age of 91, just a few days before the world premiere. the production boasts a very talented cast. rachel zegler plays the pivotal role of maria, pretty much an unknown actress. this is her performing maria four years ago, well before stephen spielberg had even heard of her. # i have a love. # and it's all that i need. the actress responded to an open
casting call online and was selected from more than 300,000 applicants. rachel zegler may be a novice, but she has no problem selling this grand production in promotional interviews. it is not the west side story many people remember. it is so much different in a sense that there is so much more context and if you're not going to come for the music, you should come for the characters, you should come for the dynamics, you should come for the dance in general, you should come for the colours. # today, all day i had the feeling. actor ansel elgort, known for his role in edgar wright's film baby driver, among others, plays the male lead in west side story, tony. what's forever? like, i want to be with you forever? you don't want to start maybe with, "i would like to take you out to coffee"? one of the best performances in the movie comes from rita moreno who was in the original 1961 west side story, then in the role of anita,
maria's close confidant. in steven spielberg's movie, moreno plays a newly—created character, valentina, the widow of corner store owner doc. of course, west side story is not just a presentation of appealing songs set in the 1950s, it deals with substantive matters. the film captures a world of violence and people being displaced from their homes by developers, both still issues in new york today. it also addresses racism, the puerto rican gang, the sharks, were the target of it. it might be a romeo and juliet—inspired love story, but it is a film that spotlights primitive bigotry. unfortunately, we have not learned our lesson. the tragedies result when hate is ascendant and no room is made for love, that bigotry and prejudice and racism are terrible sins. west side story certainly has a lot going for it, including some very strong reviews.
musical films can be a tough sell to modern audiences, but at least one new york theatre critic thinks the movie will be a hit. i think this is going to do extremely well and i see 0scars all over this. i mean, i see oscars for tony kushner, for steven spielberg, for this dynamic new cast and the wonderful rita moreno. it is a sensational film and i think it is going to do extremely well at the box office and during the awards time. west side story of course only really came together as a result of the hard labours of three—time oscar winner stephen spielberg, arguably one of hollywood's most influential and successful film—makers. so, the man who brought us jaws, et, the indiana jones movies, jurassic park, saving private ryan, schindler's list and many other films has finally turned his hand to making a musicalfilm
for the first time. i got the opportunity to talk to him virtually a few days ago. i think i wanted to direct a musicalfilm because i knew i could not sing and dance, so it is a tremendous way of sort of throwing myself into a genre that physically i would never be part of except to be able to tell a story in that idiom. i have a very good ear for music, because my mum is a concert pianist, but i cannot move my legs and i cannot dance and i cannot sing to save my life, but i have been in love with west side story since i was ten and heard the original broadway cast album that came out the year the play opened in new york. and my parents brought it home and it was an extraordinary experience and i have tremendous recollections, as i started having kids, of basically putting on the 1961 robert wise movie for them or playing them the soundtrack from the original broadway show and i have got videos of all my kids playing all the roles growing up in our house.
you know, the film that you have created, in many ways it deals with love, but it also deals with violence and racism and people being displaced in 1950s new york. in what way do you think will those themes resonate with contemporary americans? the violence in new york in 1957 that the play reflects was gang violence, in this case about third, fourth, generation white immigrants against the migrant population coming from puerrto rico and actually chasing down the american dream and holding jobs, whereas thejets didn't hold jobs, they were kind of homeless. they only had each other. but the sharks were on their way to real careers and real lives here and that was very obvious in the �*57 broadway show, but we have such bigger issues today. tony kushner wrote the screenplay, adapted the script from the play, tony and i both felt that this was the time to reintroduce it to an entirely new generation
who perhaps had never heard of west side story. we thought the messages were so relevant to our time and to the generation that my kids are working their way through, that we felt that this was the right time to reimagine west side story. how evident are stephen sondheim's talents in yourfilm? because in a way it must be very tough for you right now, you must miss him being with you as you launch your film. it was devastating, it is still devastating. we are still not... i am still not really accustomed to not being able to text him and e—mail him and compare movie trivia to the 1930s films. or to all the films with leonard. i mean, stephen was a tremendous cineaste and on the scale of martin scorsese and del toro, that kind of a cineaste, as i have been all my life and for all his great work in the nonlinear, linear musical stage, he is a genius.
i miss him for being able to compare movies. you know, the originalfilm, the 1961 film, had puerto rican characters played by white actors. what did you do to get authentic representation of characters in your film? i mean, you were quite fastidious in that respect, when she? it was just that... that was our casting director who did just an amazing job at putting together the cast for us for enough selection for me to be able to select from. the first thing i said was every single shark, boy and girl, needs to come from the latin communities without fail. because i'm never going to say that anything that happened with the robert wise �*61 film was a mistake, it is what do you know and what are you responsible for in the era that you are making your movies?
what is your level of consciousness about what is going on in any single era of all the decades since films began? i'm not saying that we did anything as a countermeasure to that movie, but many, many productions of west side story have very multiracial cast where the sharks are played by talent, the kind of kids who can sing and dance and that is all that qualifies them. we just wanted for this movie to get it right in the way that we wanted every single person who plays a puerto rican to be from the latinx community and that was a mandate from the get—go. i happen to live here on 110th st in upper manhattan and where i am, it is the official boundary between the upper west side and harlem. so, why am i telling you this? because i'm new to the neighbourhood, i'm very excited to learn that key scenes in the opening prologue of the original 1961 west side story
movie were shot right here on this playground. in fact, several new york city locations were used in the making of a picture that has become a revered classic, with legions of admirers. we thought we'd get an appraisal of the 1961 movie by seeking out the opinion of a big fan, eugene hernandez, director of the new york film festival. i think i've seen the 1961 version of west side story dozens of times, probably more than any other movie. i keep coming back to it, because i think the songs are catchy, the issues are memorable and despite the problematic aspects of the movie, itjust resonates. many of the iconic scenes that open the film were shot right near where we are talking right now, at 68th on amsterdam, on this block.
west side story is probably the first musical that really resonated with me and that i really grappled with and thought about and considered and the idea that the story was being told, this timeless story, this romeo and juliet story, was being told through verse and through song was really compelling and intriguing and provocative for me. one of the songs that has stuck with me and that i hold onto from west side story is america because it explores issues that are important and relevant to me as a latino in this country. it explores some of the tensions and issues that we are still grappling with today.
one of the things that is very interesting to me in considering west side story is that it grapples with not only how this neighbourhood was demolished and razed and what that might have meant to black and brown new yorkers who lived on these blocks, it also grapples with some really specific tensions in our own city, in new york city, many of which are still relevant today. and the movie gives a way to think about and reflect on the moment in which west side story was created. in the '50s, in new york, at a time when there was tension and turmoil, at a time when this neighbourhood that we are sitting in right now was demolished to make a space
for what we are looking at as we sit here. five or six years ago, we presented west side story, the 1951 movie, on the plaza at lincoln center. it was the biggest crowd that had ever had gathered on the plaza at lincoln center for this summer evening screening and the audience looked like the city of new york, people of all ages and backgrounds coming together to watch this movie for free on a friday night and i presented the film that evening and talking about how this neighbourhood had been demolished to make way for the places we were standing and it was a testament to the legacy of this film that people still want to come out and watch it together, talk about it and explore the issues that it raises. # that love is your life #.
the 1961 west side story film was part of a world where big budget musicals rules the land. they made a lot of money and won 0scar trophies. then, in the 1970s and '80s, the cinema musical seemed to slip away, but could steven spielberg's west side story herald a rebirth? emma jones reports. emma: the road to steven spielberg's west side story started with a 1950s stage musical starring carol lawrence as maria and larry kert as tony. the broadway version of the musical west side story first appeared here in new york in 1957 in this theatre behind me and the film adaptation followed soon afterwards, not the first time that hollywood
has sought to capitalise on broadway success. that multi—0scar—winning original west side story was part of a decade where lavish broadway adaptations, notably by theatrical partnership rodgers and hammerstein, were beloved at the box office and by the academy. # when i am with you. # getting to know what to say #. walter lang's the king and i won five 0scars. carol reed's 0liver was awarded six. my fair lady received eight oscars and was the second highest grossing film of 1964. the sound of music was the most successful film of 1955 and took five 0scars, including best picture. the golden age of the hollywood musical would really have been around the late '60s, early '70s, but in the 1970s, you had some real clunkers. # it's the hard—knock life for us.
# it's the hard—knock life for us #. you had two hugely successful broadway shows, annie and a chorus line, and they were made into terrible, terrible movie musicals and that kind of took the glow away from the hollywood musical and it struggled to come back. my sole purpose on this earth is to love roxanne. does she know? but the genre is back in 2021. directorjoe wright has made cyrano, starring peter dinklage, an adaptation of a 2018 musical of the story of a man without the confidence to pursue the woman he loves. # maybe there's a reason to believe you'll be ok. i dear evan hansen, an adaptation of tony and grammy award—winning stage show, is a story of a teenage boy overcoming profound loneliness. and leos carax�*s annette, an originalfilm musical written by the sparks, opened the cannes film festival. one person in particular seems a cheerleader for the modern musical.
lin—manuel miranda, behind the broadway show hamilton and both the stage and film version of in the heights, a love affair set in new york's washington heights neighbourhood. the film was released this year. he has now directed his first movie, tick tick boom, starring andrew garfield, and it is a musical about the late jonathan larson, a talented composer behind the musical rent, who longs to achieve something of note by his 30th birthday. i know that i worked really hard to get good at writing musicals and that skill set was helpful to me in several ways, because of course what you know you don't know. i learnt a lot on this which i will bring me hopefully to the next one, but musicals are like real life but more fun. and a desire to see a better version of real life may be driving
audiences to see this new round of stories. i think we are looking for full expression, exuberance. we are looking for a cinematic experience and we are looking to sing together, maybe. there is more communal experience that we are looking for and more joy. so i think maybe it is something to do with the pandemic. recently, apart from damien chazelle�*s la la land in 2016, which was not an original stage production, rob marshall's chicago is the only other musical to find success as a film. it won the best picture 0scar in 2002. # that they had it coming, they had it coming. - # they had it coming all along #. the musicaljust celebrated its 25th consecutive year on broadway as a stage show. its producer knows something about what makes a hit. it has to have a story worth telling and then all of the ingredients have
to uphold that story. the piece has to say something, it has to be meaningful. there are some that are just pure entertainments, but even they have an underlying story to tell. sometimes great storytelling on broadway does not translate to film. the most modern example being 2019's cats, which was described as ridiculous by the stage show�*s composer, andrew lloyd webber. # whatever time the deed took place, macavity wasn't there #. _ audience from these shows. after months of delays, it has been announced that cynthia erivo and ariana grande will star in the adaptation of the wizard of oz prequel, wicked. before covid, broadway was making gazillions of dollars and shows like hamilton and dear evan hansen and wicked and the lion king were as popular as any movie or tv series and i think hollywood has
discovered how much money these shows make, how popular not only in new york, but around the world. the critical acclaim this west side story is receiving could further underline the importance of the crossover relationship between stages and film. and after the challenges of the pandemic, interest from audiences would certainly be something to shout, not just sing about. well, that brings our special programme devoted to west side story to a close. we hope you have enjoyed the show. for me, going to see west side story was a magical experience. it really is a flawless production, perhaps a little too perfect, too overproduced at times, but really that is a minor complaint. i have to say, more than anything else, west side story proved to me the transcendent power of cinema is still very much alive. i went on a day when the headlines
were packed with worrying news about variants. the movie took me to a very different place. it gave me a love story, it brought mejoy, it brought me excitement, it made me feel sane and alive, so steven spielberg, thank you very much. we are going to leave you today with rachel zegler, from the movie, singing one of west side story�*s most popular songs, tonight. # tonight, tonight. # it all began tonight. # i saw you and the world went away. # tonight, tonight, - there is only you tonight. # what you are, what you do, what you say. j # today all day i had the feeling a miracle would happen. - # i know now i was right #.
hello. we are in that important run—up to christmas now where some of you may have plans to get on the move through this week. what can we expect weather—wise? well, not much changes through today and tomorrow. maybe a little bit more sunshine tomorrow. but some milder weather coming our way midweek. some rain at times but could the cold air fight back as we head towards christmas day? more on that in a moment. as for the rest of today, don't expect a huge amount of sunshine, best of the breaks for north west wales and through some parts of western scotland. turning quite chilly here as we head into the evening. elsewhere, temperatures in the mid single figures. it's a rather cool day and it will be through tonight. there could be a few more breaks around. chiefly across parts of western wales and scotland. the odd one elsewhere, especially on high ground. and if you do see that, you can see the blue colours here on the chart, an indication most likely to see temperatures drop below freezing.
it will be a cold start to tomorrow, and of course tomorrow is the winter solstice. we've got around five hours and a0 minutes of daylight in lerwick, but tomorrow signifies the change. from there on, the day length starts to draw out that little bit more. not a huge amount of sunshine on the winter solstice, a bit more than we've had today, particularly across wales, south—west, western parts of england. far north of scotland should have a brighter day, just one or two showers here. elsewhere, plenty of cloud, a bit misty, maybe one or two spots of drizzle first thing but many will have a dry day. temperatures still on the chilly side. but changes are afoot as we go into the middle part of the week. this big area of low pressure in the atlantic starts to exert more of an influence, strengthening the breeze across western areas, helping to break the cloud up a bit more. actually, especially in the east, it may be a bit sunnier on wednesday. but the cloud in the west will thicken up. so outbreaks of rain for northern ireland, western scotland, maybe western wales and the isle of man by the end of the day. temperatures lifting here. a chilly day, though, still across those eastern parts.
maybe a little bit colder than we have at the moment. the milder air works northwards as we head through into thursday. another bout of rain pushes northwards through thursday itself. wettest conditions will be across scotland, proceeded by a little bit of snow on the hills. but more sunshine developing across the south. and look at the split in temperatures. six or 7 celsius in northern scotland, compared to 11, 12, 13 in the south. much milder air is with us. it will be there for friday, christmas eve. but as we head in towards christmas day, a bit of a battle taking place between mild air trying to push in across southern areas, cold air trying to push in from the north. snow? well, the best chance of that in the cold air but where that dividing line lies will be crucial.
this is bbc news — broadacsting to viewers in the uk and around the world. i'm matthew amroliwala. our top stories... pressure on borisjohnson, as the british government is urged to set out plans to tackle surging coronavirus cases. a virtual cabinet meeting is under way — sources tell the bbc, three options of increasing severity have been prepared. we'll get the latest from westminster. european stock markets fall as investors eye new restrictions. the netherlands goes into national lockdown with switzerland, france, denmark and ireland bringing in stricter measures. the premier league holds emergency talks with club bosses about a potential pause to matches, because of covid. pleas for urgent supplies in the philippines, as the number