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Here's Why Tony Kushner Initially Thought It Was A Terrible Idea To Remake West Side Story

People love to complain that "there are no new ideas" when it comes to storytelling. But that's not always a bad thing. "West Side Story" is one of many examples where recycling an old story can be done very successfully. The plot takes the old Shakespearian tale of "Romeo and Juliet" and reimagines the rivalry between the Montagues and the Capulets as rival street gangs in New York City. It's such an iconic classic that it's been adapted into a film twice over — and Tony Kushner has a big part to play in the new version coming out later this month.

Kushner is an award-winning writer who has collaborated on several different Hollywood projects over the years. Most recently, he and his friend Stephen Spielberg got together to remake the classic musical and film. It'll be exciting to see what sort of modern-day twist they add to the source material. But it almost didn't happen — and you might be surprised to learn why.

He thought it would be too hard to do it right, but Spielberg changed his mind

According to a recent interview he did with The Hollywood Reporter, Kushner's first thought when the renowned director first approached him with the idea to remake "West Side Story," was "you're out of your mind." He originally told his husband, "I can't think of anything harder, and I hope [Spielberg] drops it." But Spielberg persisted and made Kushner "very excited by some of the things he was telling me," eventually convincing Kushner to change his mind.

Kushner elaborated, "Steven has a real knack for figuring out where the fault lines in society are, what's in the zeitgeist right now, what are people concerned about. And the inclusiveness that is at the heart of the American democratic experiment and willingness to expand the franchise and the enormous importance of multiculturalism to the American democratic experiment — these are all really near and dear to Steven's heart and to mine." He added, "It is an anti-racist, democratic musical."

Kushner also wanted to avoid the same sort of criticism of colorism that Lin-Manuel Miranda faced after "In the Heights" debuted, insisting that Anita be portrayed by a Black Latina actor. He added, "I would hope that when Nuyoricans or Puerto Ricans look at the community that we created in the movie, it will look to them like a 1957, Upper West Side, Nuyorican community and that the Sharks in general will feel authentic."