Spielberg’s West Side Story 2021 – a quickie project!

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Quickie project for Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story 2021.

Covid had gotten in the way so it’s maybe two-and-a-half to 3 years ago already that I’d made this vintage leather cut-off vest for Riff.

I’d completely forgotten about it!

He’s directly to the left of Tony and Maria in this shot – (the first publicity still from 2019) and I guess he’s got a death scene in it…

Spielberg's West Side Story 2021 - a quickie project! 1

It’s funny but I only remembered when I started seeing short clips on Twitter promoting the film – the vest is front and center for about a nanosecond!

These types of jobs come in once and a while and are super quick turnaround – less than a week from start to finish. ( I can’t often work that way,  it just depends on the timing.) But it’s great fun to get to work on a Steven Spielberg movie – even in a tiny way!

When I did the villain Lily Poison’s dress for MIB3, I had to make multiples – I can’t remember if it was 3 or 5 – that was like a 10 day turnaround, which was doable because the designer used my existing design.

This vest was pattern and construction – then the wardrobe department distressed the vest so it would be nicely broken in.  They also pre-sourced the leather and lining which saved time. It was very short notice as they had already begun shooting and had only just cast the part of Riff right before his scenes. I think a lot of the casting was very close to the wire.  There was a lot made of the big search they did to find the perfect actors- getting right down to the last possible minute! 

It’s been a while but now I can’t wait to see it. 

West Side Story is such a touchstone in Musical History – I remember the last time I saw the original film – It was probably in 1989 or 1990 – quite close to the 30-year anniversary of the original release.  There was a special holiday showing of the “restored” film and soundtrack at Detroit’s Fox Theatre.  I happened to be there visiting with a friend who was from Detroit.  I knew nothing about Detroit, or the Fox theatre, but my friend was an architect, and that building and its then very recent restoration was like a mecca for him.  It was simply amazing to see WSS in those surroundings.

I’d seen it plenty of times as a kid on TV, but to see it in that gorgeous venue with such incredible sound, well, that was an incredible treat.

Here’s the working sketch – the costume Designer is Paul Tazewell – and some shots of the finished vest pre-wardrobe department distressing magic!


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