1960s 3D 5th Wave 60s 70s Culture 80s Cinema A Night of Horror AAustralian film Action Activism Adaptation Adelaide Film Festival Adventure Advocacy African American Age of Adaline AI albanian Alien Abduction alien covenant aliens Alpha alt-right altzheimers amazon American Amitabh Bachchan Animal Animation anime anthology Anti-vaxx Ari Gold Art Asia Pacific Screen Awards Asian Cinema Australian film AV Industry Avengers Bad Robot BDSM Beach Boys Berlinale BFG Bianca Biasi Big Hero 6 Biography Biopic Blade Runner Blake Lively Blockbuster B-Movies Bollywood Breast Cancer Brian Wilson Brisbane Bruce Willis Camille Keenan Canadian Cancer candyman Cannes cannibalism Cannon Films Cesars CGI Chapman To Character Actors Charlie Hunnam Charlize Theron Chemsex China Lion Chinese Chloe Grace Moretz Chris Hemsworth Chris Pratt Christchurch christian cinema christmas Christopher Nolan Classic Cinema Clint Eastwood Close Encounters Cloverfield Comedy Comic Book Coming-of-Age Concert Film Conor McGregor Conspiracy Controversy Crowd-sourced Cult Cure Dakota Johnson Dance Academy Dardennes Brothers darth vader Debut Deepika Padukone Depression Disaster Movies Disney Diversity Documentary doomsday Dr Moreau drama Dunkirk Dustin Clare Dystopic EL James eli roth Elizabeth Banks Entourage Environmental Epic Erotic Cinema Extra-terrestrial Extreme Sports faith-based Family Film Fantasy Father Daughter Feminism Fifty Shades of Grey Film Film Festival Flop Foreign found footage French Cinema Friendship Fusion Technology Gareth Edwards Gay Cinema Ghostbusters Ghosts Godzilla Golan Globus Gothic Graphic Novel green inferno Guardians of the Galaxy Guillermo del Toro Gun Control Hacker Hailee Steinfeld Han Solo Happiness


The 6th annual SciFi Film Festival wrapped in Sydney tonight with an informal award ceremony that honoured ambitious future visions from global independent cinema. Bestowing equal worth upon both feature- and short-film qualifiers, fifteen films from nine countries earned laurels in seven categories.

The German production Das letzte Land (The Final Land), a crowdfunded project written and directed by Marcel Barion, won Best Feature Film. The honour continues a successful festival roll-out for the gritty, thrilling deep-space two-hander, starring Milan Pešl and Torben Föllmer (pictured, above) as disparate personalities in a desperate situation; to date, the film has earned kudos at the Berlin Independent Film Festival and Italy’s Oltre Lo Specchio Film Festival.

The Best Short Film award went to Yohan Faure’s French-Canadian mini-feature Orage par ciel clair (Thunder From a Clear Sky), a riveting examination of the global existential crisis that one advanced civilization must consider when faced with an alien world similar to its own. Starring Fayolle Jean, Mathieu Lepage and Édith Côté-Demers (pictured, right), Faure’s richly cinematic, remarkably accomplished work is a thrilling commentary on media, morality and modern society.

Best Actress honourees went to two of the youngest leads in the 2019 festival lineup. As ‘Una’, the pre-teen adventurer determined to bring her family back together in the Croatian feature Moj dida je pao s Marsa (My Grandpa is an Alien), Lana Hranjec won for a warm, emotional portrayal that called upon her to appear in almost every scene of co-directors Marina Andree Skop and Drazen Zarkovic’s crowdpleaser. Australian actress Emma Wright earned top actress honours for Chris Elena’s short Audio Guide, her performance a largely silent one that captured bouts of wonder, glee, panic and dread with acute insight.

U.S. indie effort Norman, a time travel drama rich in complex narrative beats and DIY filmmaking bravado, was the night’s only double honouree. In his first motion picture lead performance, Stephen Birge took the Best Actor trophy as the title character, a desperate loner consumed with righting a multi-dimensional wrong

all his own doing. Fellow feature debutant Joel Guelzo, who spent more than seven years shepherding his passion project to the screen, earned Best Director, the filmmaker on hand to accept his bevy of local culinary delights in lieu of an actual gong.

Best Actor in a short film went to Yang Jin for his role as social agitator ‘Joe’ in Bo Wei bleak dystopic A.I. vision Ideal Homeland. Australian director Adrian Powers was named Best Director (Short Film) for the Indigenous-themed near-future thriller Brolga, which had its World Premiere on the Opening Night of the festival.

The hotly contested Best Animation category went to two diverse, left-field but richly deserving visions. Feature honours went to Eric Power’s paper-cut masterpiece Attack of the Demons, a giggly, gruesome reworking of the kind of 50s smalltown sci-fi tropes made famous by such B-classics as The Blob and Invasion of The Body Snatchers. Recognised in the Best Animated Short category was Spanish artist Diego Porral, whose caustic social commentary works Monsters Walking and A Day in The Park were highlights of Saturday evening’s Animation Showcase.

The technical categories rewarded works breaking new ground in their chosen field. Best Visual Effects (Feature) went to German auteur Daniel Raboldt’s exciting War of The Worlds-meets-A Quiet Place survival adventure A Living Dog. The VFX short film place-getter was too tight to call, with Luka Hrgović and Dino Julius’ Blade Runner-inspired practical effects spectacle Slice of Life splitting the honour with Alejandro Damiani’s Trump-takedown, M.A.M.O.N.

The mega-budgeted Japanese anime blockbuster Human Lost, from director Fuminori Kizaki, and Gonçalo Almeida’s mystical night-time canine odyssey short Thursday Night won feature and short-film honours respectively in the Best Sound/Music category.

The 2019 SciFi Film Festival was held September 6-8 at the Event Cinemas George Street complex in Sydney.



Heading into the summer of 1989, there was no certainty that Dead Poets Society, the latest film from Disney’s adult-oriented mini-studio Touchstone Pictures, was going to be a hit. Australian director Peter Weir had scored big with his first Hollywood feature, the Oscar-nominated Witness (1985), but stumbled with his follow-up, the critically divisive box-office disappointment Mosquito Coast (1986). It had been two long years since Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), so Robin William's commercial clout as a dramatic leading man was in the balance. And would the rarefied tone of the upscale drama, about the inner struggles of wealthy white kids afforded private school educations, play at all with middle-America’s working-class movie-going masses…?

But Touchstone were confident enough to open it on June 9, an early summer slot that indicated they believed word-of-mouth would give it commercial legs. Test screenings had scored huge approval ratings; the trailer was playing ahead of the feel-good sleeper hit of early ’89, Field of Dreams; and, Williams was boisterously spruiking the life-changing journey he undertook with the young cast and his enigmatic director.

The 30th anniversary of the beloved film allows us to reflect on the journey of Dead Poets Society from page to screen...: 

THE REAL LIFE ‘JOHN KEATING’: Screenwriter Tom Schulman (pictured, right) pinned his inspiration for Williams’ Mr Keating on Professor Samuel F. Pickering Jr, an English professor from the University of Connecticut. The then 15 year-old Schulman was attending Nashville’s Montgomery Bell Academy when Pickering taught a short course in classic literature. Pickering is on the record as being humbled but a little doubtful of the honour, stating, “Whatever of me is in that character has got to be small. I was a kid and (Schulman) was a child, 23 years go. How much of me could there be in the movie?"

THE REEL LIFE ‘JOHN KEATING’: Of the period’s biggest stars, Mel Gibson was the most sought-after by Disney, though he turned it down. Director Jeff Kanew (Revenge of the Nerds, 1984; Gotcha!, 1985; Troop Beverly Hills, 1991) was attached throughout pre-production, and fought hard to cast a buzzed-about young actor named Liam Neeson. Williams was eyeing the project at this point, but didn’t gel with Kanew. Both were sent packing when Dustin Hoffman began developing it as actor/director. Williams would finally sign on when Weir became attached. Other name actors that auditioned were a young Sam Rockwell and actress Lara Flynn Boyle, who scored a small role as one of the student’s young sister, but was all but cut from the final film.

THE AUSSIE AUTEUR: At the end of a long meeting, Weir was almost out the door when Disney boss Jeffery Katzenberg said, “I’ve got the film for you.” Weir told Premiere magazine, “It's the finest piece of writing I've worked with." Weir was thrilled to work with Williams, but had to set guidelines for the actor. "Robin and I agreed at the start that (the character) was not going to be an entertainer in the classroom,” Weir has said. “That would have been wrong for the film as a whole, so he had to put the brakes on at times." Robert Sean Leonard, cast as ‘Neil’, has said, “Robin would be the first to admit that he is not the star of the film. Peter is the star."

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: Young actors Josh Charles and Ethan Hawke (pictured, right) had both been cast under Kanew’s tenure, but were kept waiting a year when director’s changed and ‘Keating’ was re-cast. It was only Charles’ second on-screen role, but said Weir of the young man, “Josh was the one to beat in auditions. No one came close to him in terms of charm and acting ability.” Hawke had starred opposite River Phoenix in Joe Dante’s Explorers four years prior, but bailed on acting to concentrate on study; Dead Poets Society was his return to filmmaking. “I thought getting this part would change my life, I had instilled it with that kind of importance," he has said.

THE WILLIAMS MAGIC: Schulman has admitted that 15percent of Keating’s dialogue is thanks to Williams’ improvisational skill, a force of nature that Weir used with precision and restraint. "When he's inspired, it would be a terrible thing to interrupt him," said the director (pictured, right; Weir, r, on-set with Williams). Some on the set recognized that behind the comedic bluster, there was sadness in Williams, made more pronounced due to his marriage breaking apart during the shoot. Actor Norman Lloyd, who locked horns with Keating in the role of ‘Mr Nolan’, told The Hollywood Reporter, “He masked the whole thing very carefully. It was never evident in the work. It was all kept under control." Ethan Hawke offers a different view, stating, “Even (to me) at 18, it was obvious he was in a tremendous amount of pain. Anybody who was watching knew."

CARPE DIEM: By the end of the summer of 1989, Touchstone’s faith in the film had been rewarded. On a tightly monitored budget of US$16.4million, Dead Poets Society faced off against the summer of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Batman, Ghostbusters II, When Harry Met Sally and Licence to Kill to earn US$95.9million domestically – the 10th top grossing film of the year. Internationally, it was a blockbuster, adding US$140million. Oscar noticed, giving Tom Schulman the Best Original Screenplay trophy and nominating the film for Best Picture, Director and Actor. So resonant were the experiences of the young men under Keating’s charge, the battle cry of the film, “Oh captain, my captain!” became a global hashtag in the wake of Robin William’s passing in 2014.

EVENT Cinemas are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Dead Poets Society with rare big-screen sessions nationwide on August 7. Full venue and ticket information is available at their official website.

Acknowledged sources: E! News Online, Box Office Mojo, Robin Williams FansiteThe Hollywood Reporter, People.



The SciFi Film Festival has announced a selection of its 2019 program that highlights its burgeoning international reputation as Australia’s predominant science fiction and fantasy film celebration. An unprecedented 17 countries will have visionary works play the 6th annual event, which unspools from September 6-8 at the Event Cinemas George Street complex in Sydney.

Comprised of 9 features and a record 31 short films, the program boasts three World Premieres, four International Premieres and 27 Australian premieres. While the bulk of the program is locked in place, Opening Night honours and the prime Saturday evening session are still being negotiated; both will be announced in the days ahead. (Pictured, above; Gigi Edgley in Ben Alpi's Hashtag)

“The degree of innovation and imagination in this year’s submissions was truly remarkable,” says Program Director Simon Foster, who notes that genre filmmakers are addressing contemporary social and political issues at a time when smart commentary is needed more than ever. “We have a works that explore such themes as gender and sexual identity, family structure, the influence of technology, population control and social media reliance. One of the most challenging films in the festival is a Mexican short featuring a mega-robot P.O.T.U.S. enforcing border wall policy,” says Foster. “Of course, we also have spaceships, ray guns and alien visitors, both good and bad, too.” (Pictured, above: Coco Gillies in Dana-Lee Mierowsky Bennett's Sammy) 

Session by session, here is what audiences can expect from the 2019 SciFi Film Festival:

Session 1: OPENING NIGHT, Friday September 6 at 6.30pm
Short: BROLGA (Dir: Adrian Powers; 15.37 mins, Australia): In a ravaged future-Australia, a solitary hermit guarding a priceless treasure is forced to offer sanctuary to a young girl who is fleeing murderous scavengers. With danger around every corner, can they learn to survive together?
Feature: TBA

Session 2: Friday September 6 at 8.30pm
Short: SOMNIUM (Dir: Mayed Al Qasimi; 14.21 mins, U.K.): An intergalactic postal worker on her final job with her laconic yet trusted ship must face unexpected challenges in the vast endless space.
Feature: THE FINAL LAND (Dir: Marcel Barion; 113 mins, Germany): Two dissimilar men in a small, old spaceship set off in search of a new home. Says Barion, “We made a film about two guys dealing with escape, search, freedom and home, just by designing their world from our very own point of view.” (Pictured, above; Torben Föllmer and Milan Pesl in The Final Land)

Session 3: Saturday September 7 at 10.30am
Short: SPICE FRONTIER (Dirs: Jalil Sadool, Adam Meyer; 8.10 mins, U.S.A.): Centuries after the destruction of Earth, Kent and his cyborg companion, C-LA, embark on a flavor-driven adventure across the dangerous intergalactic trade route known as the 'Spice Road.' (Pictured, below; a scene from the film Spice Frontier)
Feature: ERRATUM 2037 (Dirs: The Benoit Brothers; 77 mins, France): When two teens receive a message from the future, they become wide-eyed heroes in a world at the mercy of space-time paradoxes. By using old school visual effects, The Benoit Brothers adventure pays homage to the great sci-fi productions of the 80's that inspired them.

Session 4: SHORT FILM SHOWCASE, Saturday September 7 at 1.00pm
SPIRAL (Dir: Steven Kerr; 10.53 mins, Australia): Following WW3, a young woman working in an Australian outpost confronts prejudice as she attempts to save a Soviet cosmonaut marooned in space.
HASHTAG (Dir: Ben Alpi; 14.58 mins, U.S.A.): In a looming future where social media celebrities dominate our culture, X is the world’s supreme online icon— but how far must she go to hold on to her popularity?
PERFECT WORLD (Dir: Yuske Fukada; 11.17 mins, Japan): In 2121, citizens in the ‘City’ are judged based on a score of one's efficiency, called a SPEC. Doctor K faces a question between the law and morality when visited by his pregnant ex-lover.
CARCEREM (Dir: Jason Trembath; 6.40 mins, Australia): The lives of career combat officers who choose to remain on the remote desert planet of Carcerem.
IDEAL HOMELAND (Dir: Bo Wei; 15.26 mins, China): In the near future, A.I. controls the population of Earth. Joe, the carrier of AI's sexual experience, does the most mechanical task every day to obtain survival credits but yearns for the freedom of independence.
TRUTH.exe (Dir: Ricky Townsend; 18.30 mins, New Zealand): A young hacktivist is given a USB drive which contains an extraordinary truth; his mission is to upload it to the internet.
THUNDER FROM A CLEAR SKY (Dir: Yohan Faure; 21 mins, Canada): Ten years after the discovery of a remote planetary system likely to sustain the early stages of a civilization. the whole world answers the question: "Should we meet this civilization?"

Session 5: Saturday September 7 at 3.30pm
Short: THURSDAY NIGHT (Dir: Gonçalo Almeida; 7.36 mins, Portugal): An elusive stranger pays Bimbo a visit in the middle of the night to deliver a vital message.
Feature: A LIVING DOG (Dir: Daniel Raboldt; 94 mins, Germany): The war between mankind and intelligent machines has begun. In the vast emptiness of northern Scandinavia, deserter Tomasz meets Lilja, the last survivor of a resistance group, who is determined to fight the superior machines. With every minute that passes the machines get closer, their sensors programmed to detect human voice patterns. If you speak, even whisper - you die.

Session 6: Saturday September 7 at 6.00pm
Short: SLICE OF LIFE (Dirs: Luka Hrgović, Dino Julius; 14 mins, Croatia): Forced to live on the edge of humanity and morality, one lonesome, low-life drug dealer will try to change his life against all odds.
Feature: TBA

Session 7: AN EVENING OF ANIMATION, Saturday September 7 at 8.30pm
MONSTERS WALKING (Dir: Diego Porral; 1.05 mins, Spain): 'Monsters Walking' is a short film about monsters that walk.
TACIT BLUE (Dir: Wenkai Duan; 9.14 mins, China): Carl must rescue his daughter Alice, who has been kidnapped and turned into a killing machine.
GUSTAAKH (THE ARROGANT) (Dir: Vijesh Rajan; 3.49 mins, India): In a future cyberpunk city, a concerned citizen rises up to the occasion when an publicity hungry dictator fails to protect his people.
A DAY IN THE PARK (Dir: Diego Porral; 2.55 mins, Spain): A grandfather explains to his grandkid how things used to be... or maybe how they are now.
ODDS AND EVENS (Dir: Michał Czyż, 3.36 mins, Poland): A nameless astronaut’s journey through the universe and beyond human comprehension.
AVARYA (Dir: Gökalp Gönen; 19.58 mins, Turkey): Hoping to find a habitable planet, a human becomes trapped in his own ship after his robot overseer finds every single candidate planet unsuitable.
M.A.M.O.N. (Dir: Alejandro Damiani; 5.00 mins, Mexico): A war breaks out between a Trump-like mecha-robot and several stereotypical Mexican Latinos.
ATTACK OF THE DEMONS (Dir: Eric Power; 72 mins, U.S.A): For centuries, a demonic cult has been plotting the destruction of mankind. When a small Colorado town is overrun by a legion of mutating demons, three non-demon hunter friends must use every skill their minds can fathom to stave off the demon apocalypse.

Session 8: Sunday September 8 at 10.30am
Short: CURIOSITY (Dir: Lukas Pace; 10.20 mins, U.K.): A lonely 10 year old girl named Katie one day stumbles upon a forgotten robot of days gone by and mistakenly activates it.
Feature: MY GRANDPA IS AN ALIEN (Dir: Marina Andree Skop, Drazen Zarkovic; 79 mins, Croatia): Una and her new robot friend have 24 hours to find her Grandpa, who was kidnapped by aliens. (Pictured, right; Lana Hranjec in My Grandpa is An Alien)

Session 9: WOMEN IN SCIFI, Sunday September 8 at 1.00pm
PARIS YOU GOT ME (Dir: Julie Boehm; 9.15 mins, Germany): The street artist George lures Ksenia into his magic world of art illusions.
I-RIS (Dir: Leila Garrison; 12.11 mins, U.S.A.): In a world where people can get eye implants to adjust what they see, complications with one girl’s operation cause her traumas to manifest visually.
DEER BOY (Dir: Katarzyna Gondek; 15.00 mins, Poland): A hunter's son, born with antlers, learns that each man kills the thing he loves.
TRANSMISSION (Dir: Rebecca Gardiner; 14.45 mins, Australia): Desperate to find a missing research team, Commander Sterling and her crew venture deep into an unknown planet.
SAMMY (Dir: Dana-Lee Mierowsky Bennett; 14.00 mins, Australia): In a war torn Australia, 10-year-old Sammy must build a hot air balloon so she and her little brother can find their parents.
UNREGISTERED (Dir: Sophia Banks; 15 mins, U.S.A.): Los Angeles, the not too distant future: the government limits one child per home as a solution to overpopulation. The love between Rekker and Ata force them to question the state of society - as well as confront a secret of her own.
MOBIUS BOND (Dir: Emilija Riviere; 15 mins, Lithuania): A girl experiences strange body symptoms, which become an evidence of a Mobius-like topology of the Universe.
EINSTEIN-ROSEN (Dir: Olga Osorio; 9 mins, Spain): Teo claims he has found a wormhole. His brother Óscar does not believe him... at least not for now.
LAB RAT (Dir: Nour Wazzi; 15.28 mins, U.K.): A group of scientists trapped in a lab learn that one of them is an A.I..... and it has been deceiving them.

Session 10: Sunday September 8 at 3.30pm
Short: AUDIO GUIDE (Dir: Chris Elena; 9 mins, Australia): Says Elena, “It's about a woman in an art gallery listening to an Audio Guide that then tells her how everyone is going to die, revealing the real history of the world and the artworks.”
Feature: NORMAN (Dir Joel Guelzo; 105 mins, U.S.A.): Norman becomes trapped and isolated in the past, jeopardizing life in both realities. He must invent a way back to the future before the world collapses.

Session 11: CLOSING NIGHT, Sunday September 8 at 6.00pm
Short: FACE SWAP (Dirs: David Gidali, Einat Tubi, 5.01 mins, U.S.A.): Convincing his wife to try out a new A.I. technology to spice up their sex life, a husband ends up getting a bit more spice than he bargained for.
Feature: SPECIAL PRESENTATION - STAY TUNED (Dir: Peter Hyams, 88 mins, U.S.A.): A husband and wife are sucked into a hellish television reality and have to survive a gauntlet of twisted versions of popular shows. Criminally underseen when first released in 1992, this thrilling, hilarious satire explores media saturation and society’s obsession with ‘The Tube’. (Pictured, right; John Ritter and friends in Peter Hyams' Stay Tuned).

SCREEN-SPACE is a media partner of the SciFi Film Festival. Managing Editor Simon Foster is the Program Director of the festival. 



Impacting our collective subconscious this Saturday June 22 will be the energy of Disclosurefest, a multi-tiered artistic celebration of progressive spiritual and social philosophies. While the focal point of the Disclosurefest weekend is the ‘Mass Meditation Initiative’, sidebar strands will explore new-age thinking with mindful yoga, music, healing arts and vegan culture. The Summer Solstice get-together will also feature The Disclosurefest Film Festival, to be held at the outdoor cinema facilities in L.A.’s State Historic Park, with four mind-expanding documentaries inspiring enlightenment…

HEAL (Dir: Kelly Noonan Gores; 106 mins; Official Website): Director Kelly Noonan's documentary takes us on a scientific and spiritual journey where we discover that our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions have a huge impact on our health and ability to heal. The latest science reveals that we are not victims of unchangeable genes, nor should we buy into a scary prognosis. The fact is we have more control over our health and life than we have been taught to believe. This film will empower you with a new understanding of the miraculous nature of the human body and the extraordinary healer within us all. HEAL not only taps into the brilliant mind's of leading scientists and spiritual teachers, but follows three people on actual high stakes healing journeys.

RENEGADE (Dir: Stephen Peek; Official Website): David Icke has been warning for nearly 30 years of a coming global Orwellian state in which a tiny few would enslave humanity through control of finance, government, media and a military-police Gestapo overseeing 24/7 surveillance of a micro-chipped population. He has said that 'physical' reality is an illusion and what we think is the 'world' is a holographic simulation or 'Matrix' created by a non-human force to entrap human perception in ongoing servitude. They called him 'crazy', 'insane', a 'lunatic', and he was subjected to decades of ridicule, dismissal and abuse. Oh, but how things change.

EXTRAORDINARY: THE SEEDING (Dir: Jon Sumple; 98 mins; Official Website
Abductions. Reproduction experiments. Memories of seeing children off-planet. Are aliens involved in a complex hybridization project where humans are used to cultivate a hybrid population? Extraordinary: The Seeding tells these stories through one-on-one interviews with abductees—brave individuals sharing intensely personal and emotional stories. The film also explores hybridization, why it’s happening and the impact on humanity. The information presented is intended to educate, entertain and encourage audiences to ask one simple question: What if this is all true?

A PRAYER FOR COMPASSION (Dir: Thomas Wade Jackson; Official Website): A feature length documentary that strives to inspire and encourage those already on a religious or spiritual path, to expand their circle of compassion to embrace all life, regardless of species, and make choices in alignment with this value. The film follows the filmmaker on a quest across America, that ultimately takes him to Morocco for the UN Climate Conference and throughout the Indian subcontinent to ask people of faith the question, "Can compassion grow to include all beings?"



Steven Spielberg’s reimagining of West Side Story carries with it a degree of expectation few films ever experience. The 1961 adaptation of lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway smash, co-directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, is cinematic perfection; winner of 11 Academy Awards (including an honorary trophy for Robbins’ ‘brilliant achievement in the art of choreography’), it was a box office blockbuster and remains arguably the greatest musical ever made. Spielberg has sought the rights to the original stage production for close to two decades; scripting is Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize (Drama) winner for Angels in America and past Spielberg collaborator on Munich (2005) and Lincoln (2012). Of course, that’s all grist for the critical mill if those before the camera fail to spark like the iconic stars of the original…

MARIA: In her late teens, Maria has immigrated to New York hoping to start a new life with her brother, Sharks gang leader Bernardo. She soon meets and falls for Tony, a boy from a rival gang, setting in motion an increasingly desperate and dangerous romance…
1961: One of the most sought after roles at the time, the original stage ‘Maria’, Carol Lawrence, as well as actresses as diverse as Jill St John, Audrey Hepburn, Jane Fonda and Suzanne Pleshette, all tested for the part. The producers sought Warren Beatty for the lead role of ‘Tony’ and requested a show reel from his latest production, Splendour in The Grass, but it would be Beatty’s co-star, Natalie Wood, who impressed. Broadway star Marni Nixon would be used to redub Wood’s singing voice (a task she reprised, uncredited, for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady).
2019: Chosen from a casting call that saw 30,000 hopefuls tested across the U.S., 17 year-old Rachel Zegler is a singer/songwriter of Colombian descent hailing from New Jersey. Maria will be her debut film role. Zegler submitted a recording of her singing ‘Tonight and ‘Me Siento Hermosa’ before being screentested in July 2018. She is an experienced stage actress, having played ‘Maria’ in a production at the Bergen Performing Arts Centre in her home state. A YouTube star with over 150,000 followers, Zegler’s rendition of Lady Gaga’s ‘Shallow’ was a viral hit in 2018.

TONY: A former member of the Jets gang, Tony has moved on from the street tough’s life, though remains close to gang leader Riff. He is coerced into rejoining his former life by Riff for a clash with the Sharks, a decision that leads to a fateful meeting with Maria… 
1961: Former child actor Richard Beymer found breakout success in 1959, earning acclaim for his role in George Steven’s The Diary of Anne Frank opposite Millie Perkins and a comedic support turn in Blake Edwards’ High Time (1960). In addition to Beatty, many of Hollywood’s leading men were considered and tested for the part of ‘Tony’, including Tab Hunter, Robert Redford, Richard Chamberlain and Burt Reynolds before Beymer was cast. He remained under contract with 20th Century Fox but never found A-list stardom after West Side Story, despite working with such directors as Martin Ritt (Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man, 1962) and Daniel Mann (Five Fingers Exercise, 1962). He has worked steadily for four decades, recently reprising his role as ‘Ben Horne’ for David Lynch in the revival of the TV series Twin Peaks.     
2019: One of the hottest young actors in Hollywood off the back of director Edgar Wright’s smash action film Baby Driver, Ansel Elgort is the sole box office name in Spielberg’s principal cast. Having debuted opposite Chloe Grace Moretz in Carrie (2013), he was teamed with Shailene Woodley to break hearts in The Fault in Our Stars (2014) and resist dystopian fascism in the YA-literary adaptions Divergent (2014), Insurgent (2015) and Allegiant (2016). He took on the prestige pic Billionaire Boys Club (2018) with fellow next-big-thing Taren Edgerton for director James Cox, only to have the film buried when the deeds of co-star Kevin Spacey became public.

RIFF: Leader of the Jets gang, Riff and Tony have been as close as brothers since Riff moved in with Tony’s family in tough times. A seasoned street brawler, having protected the Jet’s turf from the Emeralds and Hawks ahead of the threat posed by Bernardo’s Puerto Rican outfit, the Sharks…
1961: Russ Tamblyn was the most experienced of all the West Side Story cast members. A child actor since his debut as Rusty Tamblyn in The Kid from Cleveland in 1949 (with two uncredited roles already under his belt), Tamblyn would become one of Hollywood’s most likable screen actors in films like Gun Crazy (1950), Father of The Bride (1950), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956), Peyton Place (1957, for which he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination), High School Confidential! (1958) and Cimarron (1960). Post West Side Story, he eschewed stardom and embraced the counter-culture movement, starring in B-shockers with titles like War of the Gargantuas (1966) and Dennis Hopper’s infamous The Last Movie (1971).
2019: Bridging the worlds of live theatre and feature films largely sums up the short but spectacular career momentum of Mike Faist. Having earned a Tony nomination for his role as ‘Connor Murphy’ in the hit musical comedy Dear Evan Hansen, Faist solidified his stage rep with standout performances in Days of Rage, A Month in the Country, Appropriate and Newsies. His movie moments include such indie notables as Dan Sallitt’s The Unspeakable Act (2012), Patrick Wang’s The Grief of Others (2015), Marc Lucas’ Our Time (2016) and Fritz Bohm’s Wildling (2018), opposite Liv Tyler.

BERNARDO: Attacked by the Jets on his first day in his new homeland, Bernardo becomes resentful of Americans and surrounds himself with countrymen who feel the same. Embracing his role as protector of Maria, he is destined for soul-crushing realisation when he learns of his sister’s love for his sworn enemy…
1961: The journey of West Side Story from its stage roots to the bigscreen would not be complete without George Chakiris, for whom the musical became an all-consuming, career-defining odyssey. Arriving in New York a year into the Broadway run of the musical, director Jerome Robbins auditioned Chakiris and rewarded him with the role of Jets leader ‘Riff’ in the London leg of the production. By the time the film was in pre-production, Chakiris had convinced the producers that he was better suited to ‘Bernardo’; he was proven right when he earned the Best Supporting Acting Oscar.
2019: Born in Montreal, David Alvarez made a very high profile debut on Broadway when he was cast as one of three ‘Billys’ in the stage adaptation of the film, Billy Elliot; the role would earn him and co-stars Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish a rare joint Tony Award for Best Actor. The young patriot then put his career on hold in 2010 to serve with the US Army’s 25th Infantry Division. Graduating from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre having attained a full merit scholarship, Steven Spielberg’s film will be his feature debut. 

ANITA: Girlfriend of Sharks gang leader Bernardo, Anita is like a sister to Maria and loves her new life in America. When it becomes clear to her that Maria and Tony are in love, Anita hides her resentment towards the former Jet and is persuaded by Maria to help keep the secret from Bernardo…
1961: Emerging as the breakout star from the 1961 film’s huge success, Rita Moreno has since become an iconic figure in the American entertainment industry. Born in Humacao, Puerto Rico in 1931, she was five when her mother emigrated to New York City. By 11, she had found work dubbing American films into her native Spanish; by 13, she had been cast in her first Broadway production, Skydrift. From that point she would build a career that has led to her rare status as an ‘E.G.O.T Honouree’ – the winner of an Emmy (Variety and Music Performance, 1977; Guest Actress – Drama, 1978); Grammy (The Electric Company Album, 1972); Oscar (Supporting Actress for West Side Story); and, Tony (Best Actress for The Ritz, 1975). In 2004, she was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour for an American civilian, by President Bush. Spielberg has cast her in his remake as ‘Valentina’, a role created especially for the actress.
2019: To be asked to step into the shoes of Rita Moreno must be the most daunting task a young actress could face, so for Spielberg to anoint Ariana DeBose as his ‘Anita’ represents a seismic shift in the Tony-nominated actress’ career. Co-star of Broadway hit Summer and an original cast member of the phenomenon Hamilton, DeBose has scant film experience (a bit part in Lonny Price’s filmed stageplay Company, 2011; the lead in the little-seen indie, Seaside, 2018), but her stakes will soar if her ‘Anita’ is played with the same cinematic gusto as Ms Moreno.

Steven Spielberg’s WEST SIDE STORY begins shooting in June 2019 for release via 20th Century Fox.

(PHOTO CREDITS: United Artists / Ilya S Savenok, Dia Dipasupil - Getty Images / Instagram)