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Steven Spielberg on Authentic Casting in ‘West Side Story’

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Steven Spielberg has a simple reason for why he made sure Latino characters were played by Latino actors in his “West Side Story” adaptation.

“This is the way to do it,” the director said Tuesday at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. “This is the way we are in this world. This is where we should have always been, but this is very important, especially in ‘West Side Story.’ We have to get it right. It’s not that other productions didn’t get it right in their own way, but I just did not want to make this reimagining without complete representation [and] authentic representation from the entire Latinx community. That was the most important thing.”

Also important, he added, “A lot of Spanish, but don’t subtitle it.”

Ariana DeBose, who stars in the musical as Anita, was impressed. “Huge, brave decision,” she said on the carpet. Looking at Spielberg, she remarked, “I’m so proud of you. I’m so proud of us. We did it.”

DeBose recalled being a kid when she first saw Rita Moreno playing Anita in the original 1961 “West Side Story.” “Representation, I will tout it till the end of my days because it really does matter,” she said, adding, “We get to give a new generation the same thing Rita gave us – the reality that there’s possibility of success. And that’s what this is all about. It transcends the pressure of comparison or any of that. It’s not about that. It’s about showing other people that it’s possible.”

DeBose also spoke about being openly queer in Hollywood. “There are days, being as public as I am, that it’s a little scary. But if I don’t do it, who will?” she said. “I have to invite more people to the table. If I can stand up in my authentic power that means other people can too. And I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m allowed to be here.”

Watch the full interview above.

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