petzipellepingo (petzipellepingo) wrote in westsidestory,

Robert Wise on his films : from editing room to director's chair by Sergio Leemann

p. 165-166

"Putting a stage musical on the screen represents challenges...On the stage, the turf that the kids fight over were stylized sets. There was no way I could realistically open the film without opening it in the real New York streets.

You can get away with sets at sunset or night, but when the sun is pouring down, you need the real thing. I felt that if I could do all day shooting in New York, from then on we would be more successful in doing it back in Hollywood in sets at the studio or in Downtown Los Angeles. All the night street scenes were shot in Downtown L.A.; you can't tell the difference because you light just what you want to be seen. I had a hard sell with the Mirisch Company, but we were allowed to do it in New York locations. Jerry said to me, "I agree with you completely about the need to open it in New York, but you gave me the biggest challenge to take my most stylized dancing and put it against the most real background that we have in the whole picture.

The aerial opening was also my concept. I know that I had to deliver New York and I didn't want that same shot across the river, the bridge, and the skyline that had been shot to death. I had to find some new way... I said to myself "I wonder what the canyons of New York look like straight down. What I wanted to do was to show a New York that people hadn't seen, a different look of the city, almost an abstract one. I wanted to put the audience in a frame of mind to accept the kids dancing in the streets without that twinge of embarrassment."

Tags: 1961 film, books, jerome robbins, robert wise

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