Did the actors in Spielberg’s West Side Story use voice liners like they did in the 1961 film, or is it really them singing? We tell you everything.
Break with the past
Steven Spielberg said it: his version of West Side Story corrects some “mistakes” made in the Robert Wise adaptation released in 1961. It involves a cast made up largely of Latino actors – where the former used the whitewashing – while focusing on real singers.
Because yes, it is not the real voice of the main actors that we hear in the first West Side Story. the ghost singing, or the voice double, was even rather common at the time. Natalie Wood (Maria) was voiced on the songs by Marni Nixon, Richard Beymer (Tony) by Jimmy Bryant, Russ Tamblyn (Riff) by Tucker Smith on the track “Jet Song” and Rita Moreno (Anita), who knew all the same sing, was just replaced by Betty Ward on “A Boy Like That”.
In the case of Robert Wise’s film, those vocal liners weren’t even credited in the credits. A choice that does not have more to Marni Nixon, who went to court to ask the production to pay him part of the royalties on the sale of the albums.
As we told you above, Spielberg made a radically different choice. The slogan was: “Everyone had to know how to sing, dance and playAnd the teams took almost a year to find the perfect cast. A lot of actors are from Broadway – especially the Sharks and the Jets – like Mike Faist (Riff).
The actor, who originally auditioned to play Tony, was notably illustrated on the boards in the musical Dear Evan Hanson. Ariana DeBose, also used to the scene, has already demonstrated her voice on television, notably in the flashy The Prom or in the more classic Schmigadoon !.
And raw talents
The nice surprise of the film comes from Rachel Zegler, sweet Maria with the velvet voice, who gets her first role in the cinema thanks to West Side Story. The girl, only 16 at the time of the audition, had sent the casting director a video of her singing the Spanish version of I feel pretty. And if you want to hear him sing more modern songs, go to his Youtube channel:
Spielberg took his time deciding who would play Tony in his remake. His choice fell on Ansel Elgort, a well-known face, unlike the other members of the cast. And if the actor is not a professional singer, it is he who interprets all his songs in the film. This is not the first time that he has demonstrated his talents, as evidenced by this video … from 2017:
He surrounded himself with a vocal coach (an opera singer) and trained for several weeks with the aim of sending a video for the auditions. And the charm has operated since it is him that we find on the screen facing Rachel Ziegler.