• The action of Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story" takes place in New York in 1957.

  • A team was tasked with finding natural settings that could correspond to this period.

  • Rob Striem explains how he fulfilled his mission in an ever-changing city.

It is the most popular destination - New York - since the United States reopened its borders. But for those who can't get there immediately,

West Side Story is

already offering a spectacular visit to the Big Apple from 1957. Rob Striem, head of scouting for Steven Spielberg's film, showed

20 Minutes

the location. where Maria and Tony live their tragic love story.

“My job was to find natural settings that could match the plot, which was not easy because the city has changed a lot and it continues to evolve constantly,” says Rob Striem to

20 Minutes

.

Steven Spielberg sometimes accompanied him on his visits, which has been an honor for this specialist in urban settings who has worked with Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, Tom McCarthy, as well as on the series

Sex and the City

and

The Knick.

.

Between reality and creation

It is in Harlem, Washington Heights and Brooklyn that Rob Striem found his happiness with the mythical fire ladders where the two heroes sing their passion. He also traveled to Paterson, New Jersey, the city that inspired Jim Jarmusch for his eponymous film. “We used the original buildings, some of which are still in their original condition,” explains Rob Striem, “but gentrification has made a lot of things disappear and traffic has made it even more difficult for us. The film also shows how poor neighborhoods were razed in the 1950s to make way for modern and luxurious homes. The film opens with a construction site in the heart of Manhattan where a high place of New York culture has been erected: the Lincoln Center.

The real buildings mingle with additions from the “deco” team to make the illusion perfect. “You had to be very careful with the floors,” remembers Rob Striem, “because they had to be secure to allow the dancers to move around safely. Some musical acts like

America,

where the Puerto Rican community evokes the American dream and its disillusions, have been shot in several different places, the staging giving the illusion that everything is happening in the same place. "It was a puzzle, but the result is worth it: Steven Spielberg's precision of vision makes the whole thing homogeneous and magical," says Rob Striem.

He and his team also experienced unexpected problems. “One of our big problems has been the trees, which have grown a lot since we planted them in the 1950s,” he explains. They are no longer shrubs like they used to be, but giants that create canopies above the streets. Sometimes it was necessary to prune the foliage, taking care not to damage the trunks, a task supervised by the city. “The rules are strict: you should in no way disturb the inhabitants and always negotiate with them to cause them as little concern as possible. Mission accomplished: during our report, passers-by came to greet Rob Striem with a smile on their face as they remembered the shoot. “My greatest pride is to tell myself that they have fond memories of it. As much as the spectator of the film,amazed to rediscover the “city that never sleeps” in a different light.

Movie theater

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  • Musical comedy

  • Steven spielberg

  • Reporting

  • 20 minutes video

  • Movie theater

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