SS Two.
Picture: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Pictures for twentieth Century Studios

On the set of Spielberg’s remake of West Aspect Story, there was an SS1 and an SS2. As Spielberg defined throughout a speech on the movie’s premiere on Monday night time, he was really the latter of the 2, as a result of he insisted that Stephen Sondheim must be the primary one. The Broadway legend, who died on November 26, wrote the lyrics for the unique musical and returned to seek the advice of on its newest movie adaptation. Alongside the best way, he sat in on all the pieces from discussions in regards to the screenplay to recording classes, and have become good buddies with Spielberg himself. Beneath, in full, are Spielberg’s remarks about Sondheim from the premiere. After praising Sondheim, Spielberg went on to thank numerous different collaborators on the movie, nevertheless it’s value noting that, on the finish of his speech, he closed with, “Thank you, Steve, for the hat.”

It can’t be the night time we’ve lengthy anticipated, due to the absence of Stephen Sondheim. His superb work for West Aspect Story first put him on the map, and launched a profession that might fully redraw that map, reinvent the musical and theater and create a physique of labor that past any doubt is as immortal as something made by a mortal could be. To borrow what Ben Johnson wrote about Shakespeare, Stephen Sondheim was not of an age however all the time.

Stephen was an enormous a part of the making of our movie West Aspect Story, from the earliest screenplay drafts to each recording session, which Steve attended with out fail. Listening along with his eyes closed, he’d sway, he’d swoon, or he’d grimace and flinch. So I caught myself watching Steve’s expressions, generally greater than the actors, as a result of they completely mirrored what everybody was doing. 

He all the time deferred to our musical director, Jeanine Tesori. She directed all of the vocal performances, however his insistence, like Jeanine’s, was on telling emotional truths based mostly on an understanding of character. You may get by any challenges offered by a sophisticated rating, Steve stated, so long as you understand who you might be and what you’re feeling. 

And he and I grew to become good buddies. He was SS1 and I used to be SS2, and I insisted on that rating. Our friendship fashioned across the work on West Aspect Story. It grew once I realized that Steve possessed an infinite storehouse of film information and trivia. He advised me issues like about his fondness for actresses with smoky voices like Ida Lupino and Glynis Johns, and what number of totally different ways in which Margaret Sullavan had died in her movies, imagining that her contract with MGM stipulated that you could possibly by no means be killed the identical method twice. These have been the main points that by no means escaped Steve’s discover, both on the boards or on the film display. And like everybody else on the planet that cares about phrases and music, I’m heartbroken at this sudden loss. However Steve is right here with us tonight within the type of his nice abiding genius and the wonderful musical he helped deliver into the world 64 years in the past, and he’s additionally right here in our gratitude for all of the artwork and tradition he left behind. Thanks, Steve. 


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