‘West Side Story’ Movie Cast Original Vs 2020 Remake


'West Side Story' Movie Cast Original Vs 2020 Remake'West Side Story' Movie Cast Original Vs 2020 Remake

UPDATED 1/22/2024

West Side Story is in a category of its own, from its colorful cast of memorable characters to its timeless songs and stunning choreography. Over half a century after its release, it is crystal clear that West Side Story is one of the greatest movies of all time. The iconic 1961 film, featuring the music of the legendary Leonard Bernstein, was based on the ‘50s Broadway musical of the same name. A modern twist on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the film follows the forbidden and tragic love story of Tony and Maria through the gang riddled landscape of New York City’s Upper West Side in the late 1950s. The film touches on issues of loyalty, love, class, and prejudice that are as relevant today as ever. 

Although it didn’t fare well at the box office, Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake had people, as soon as it was announced, wondering how the new cast could possibly stack up to the original. And let’s face it, it’s a tall order to top a movie that won 10 Academy Awards, so Mr. Spielberg definitely had his work cut out for him. Let’s take a deeper look at the original ‘60s cast and the 2021 cast. 

1. Maria

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Natalie Wood, Rachel Zegler / The Mirisch Company / Courtesy

Maria was originally played by the late Natalie Wood. While she did not provide the singing voice for the character, she truly brought the character to life. Natalie Wood had truly made a name for herself in film, starring in well-known films since she was just 8 years old, such as the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street. She also starred alongside the iconic James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause in 1955.  Sadly, in 1981, Natalie drowned off Catalina Island at age 43. An investigation into her drowning incident is still ongoing today. Despite such a tragic and sudden end to her life, we’ll always remember her role as Maria.

Fast forward to the 2021 remake and the role of Maria was played by then 17-year-old Rachel Zegler. Amazingly, Zegler has never been in a movie or even on Broadway. She was actually found through nationwide talent search and before being cast as Maria was mostly known for posting videos on social media of her amazing voice. Since West Side Story, Rachel has starred in 2023’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods as the goddess Anthea and The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes as Lucy Gray Baird. In 2024 she portray the title character in the live action version of Snow White and provide her voice as Princess Ellian in the animated Spellbound

2. Tony

Tony and Maria, West Side Story, then and nowTony and Maria, West Side Story, then and now
Our look at the actors playing Tony and Maria in the original West Side Story and the 2021 remake (courtesy Everett Collection)

The role of Tony was originally played by Richard Beymer, who also starred in the cult classic Twin Peaks. Ansel Elgort played the role of Tony in the remake. He has a side gig as an EDM artist under the name Ansølo. Prior to West Side Story he appeared in such films as The Divergent Series: Allegiant (2016), Baby Driver (2017), Billionaire Boys Club (2018) and The Goldfinch (2019). Since he’s starred in and been executive producer of the Max streaming series Tokyo Vice

At 85 years old, Beymer is still alive and still working. As recently as 2017 he reprised his role as Benjamin Horne in Twin Peaks. In 2011, he, Rita Moreno, and Russ Tamblyn were all seen together for a little West Side Story reunion, showing they’re still involved as ever in the industry and in each other’s lives as well!

3. Anita

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Rita Moreno, Ariana DeBose / The Mirisch Company / IMDb

Anita was played by the incredible Rita Moreno and by Ariana DeBose in the remake! Moreno might just be one of the best Anita’s, if not the best, as she won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for West Side Story! DeBose may have some shoes to fill, but she’s an original cast member of Broadway’s Hamilton with one hell of a voice! In 2023 she provided her voice in Once Upon a Studio and Wish and appeared in I.S.S., while in 2024 she’ll be seen in the spy film Argylie, the Spider-Verse Marvel film Kraven the Hunter and the horror film House of Spoils

Rita Moreno is 92 years old and still kickin’ it! While she dominated in West Side Story, she also starred in other notable films like Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The King and I (1956), The Four Seasons (1981), I Like It Like That (1994), and many more. What’s even more exciting is that Moreno was in the remake and since then her credits include 2022’s The Prank and My Father’s Dragon and 2023’s 80 for Brady, Fast X and Family Switch. On television, she appeared in a 2023 episode of Lopez vs Lopez.

4. Bernardo

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George Chakiris, David Alvarez / The Mirisch Company / Fox

The role of Bernardo was portrayed by George Chakiris in 1961 and David Alvarez in the remake. Again, Alvarez may have big shoes to fill here, but he is a former Broadway star as he was one of the original three boys cast to play Billy on Broadway in Billy Elliot the Musical. Those original three boys would go on to win a Tony Award for their roles, so it’s safe to say we were right in expecting a stellar performance! After West Side Story he appeared in the 2021 film The Stamp Collector and that same year’s television series American Rust

Chakiris, 91, won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for his performance as Bernardo. While he made his first appearance in the 1947 film Chorus of Love, he would continue to rack up roles in musical films like 1951’s The Great Caruso and 1954’s White Christmas (as a dancer). Prior to joining the 1961 film cast of West Side Story, he actually had a role in the show in the London cast as “Riff.” He even had a career as a pop singer in the ‘60s, showcasing his triple-threat background in the arts. His last acting credit was back in 1996, so needless to say, he’s taking it easy for now!

5. Chino

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Jose De Vega, Josh Andrés River / The Mirisch Company / IMDb

The role of Chino was played by Jose De Vega in the original and Josh Andrés Rivera in the 2021 film. These two have a little bit in common, so it seems! West Side Story was the first film credit for De Vega and it is the first film credit for Rivera as well! Similar to other cast members of the remake, Rivera also has theatrical credits to his name as he was part of the National Touring Cast of Hamilton. He has quite a beautiful singing voice! In 2023 he’ll be seen in Cat Person and The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, alongside West Side Story co-star Rachel Zegler. He has also shot an episode of American Sports Story

While Jose De Vega sadly died in 1990, he held an impressive resume of acting credits up until his death. With West Side Story being his first acting credit, the credits to follow include The Lieutenant, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, and, his final credit, Dynasty.

6. Doc

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Ned Glass, Rita Moreno / The Mirisch Company / Richard Shotwell/Shutterstock

While the role was originally played by Ned Glass, it was played by actress Rita Moreno in the remake! Moreno’s new version of Doc was actually named ‘Valentina,’ and was a “re-conceived and expanded version of the character of Doc,” according to media descriptions. 

Although Glass passed away back in 1984, his career in film is nothing short of grand. He appeared in over 80 films throughout his career and was known for his distinct, nasally voice and New York accent. Other notable credits from his repertoire include the Elvis Presley film Kid Galahad (1962), Never a Dull Moment (1968), and Lady Sings the Blues (1972). His last film appearance was in Street Music (1981) and his last TV appearance was on Cagney & Lacey in 1982.

7. Riff

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Russ Tamblyn, Mike Faist / The Mirisch Company / Playbill

Riff was originally played by Russ Tamblyn in 1961 and Mike Faist in the remake. Similar to the previously mentioned actors, Faist is a Tony-nominated actor out of Columbus, OH, and moved to New York at just 17 years old to pursue acting. He soon became a working actor for Broadway’s critically acclaimed Dear Evan Hansen. His recent film credits are Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game (2022), The Bikeriders (2023) and this year’s Challengers.

Tamblyn’s success with West Side Story would eventually lead to more roles like in the crime film High School Confidential (1958), and in the title role of Tom Thumb (1958). Not only is he a wonderful actor, but his gymnastic and acrobatic talents in addition to choreography made him a shoo-in for leading roles down the line. His last-known credit was in 2018 for The Haunting of Hill House for one episode. He’s 89.

8. Ice

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Tucker Smith, Kyle Coffman / The Mirisch Company / Lucas Day Ritcher

Ice was played by Tucker Smith who is said to have not pursued an acting career after West Side Story because he was openly gay.  At the time, this was a career death sentence, even in fancy Hollywood.  Interestingly enough, Ice was not a character in the original Broadway show, he was created for the movie. His big moment, the song “Cool,” was originally performed by the character Riff.  Fun fact, Tucker Smith also dubbed some of Russ Tamblyn‘s singing for the number, “Jet Song.” The actor passed away in 1988 of cancer at age 52. 

For the 2021 version, Ice was played by Broadway actor Kyle Coffman, who was actually a part of the 2010 Grammy-winning revival of West Side Story, when he played the character, A-Rab. After taking on Ice, he appeared in Classmates (2023) and has the film Raymar in post-production.

Can you believe it’s been over 60 years since the original West Side Story film came out? What do you think of the 2021 cast?



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