Ariana DeBose originally turned down West Side Story audition

Ariana DeBose originally turned down her Oscar-winning role in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.

The Hamilton star has revealed how she first turned down the chance to audition for the film.

Appearing on The Jonathan Ross Christmas special, Ariana shared: “I turned down that audition a couple of different times before I went in. I was scared. I was on Broadway at the time, playing Donna Summer, and I was very committed to that show.

“I didn’t feel like I had enough proper time to prepare. Granted, they called 24-hours before they wanted me to audition… I was like, ‘Dude, I just want to be prepared.’ So, I said, ‘No, I’m not going to read the scenes for you today.’

“And he was like, ‘What?’ I was like, ‘I’m not going to read today but I’ll come back if you would like me to?’ He was like, ‘I’d like you to.’ I don’t know if I’d have the courage to do that today, but it worked in the moment. I don’t know what I was thinking actually, but it all worked out.”

Ariana, voicing the lead role in new Disney movie Wish, also shared a touching story about her mother’s visit to the set, where she met Spielberg.

Describing her mother’s reaction, Ariana said: “My mum just stared at him. My mum is never at a loss for words. She was like, ‘Sir, I think I’m a bit starstruck so maybe I should just leave.’ He was so great with her and held her hand. She got to sit next to him. It was a pinch-me moment.”

(L-R): Ilda Mason as Luz, Ariana DeBose as Anita, and Ana Isabelle as Rosalia in West Side Story
(L-R): Ilda Mason as Luz, Ariana DeBose as Anita, and Ana Isabelle as Rosalia in 20th Century Studios’ WEST SIDE STORY. Photo by Niko Tavernise. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on her Oscar win, Ariana spoke about the significance of having her mother as her date, saying: “She [my mum] was my date [to the Oscars]. She hobnobbed with everyone. It’s the weirdest thing, you’re in a room full of all those amazing people. Thank god mum was there to keep me grounded so I didn’t like, float away. Then they say your name… it was so great to share that with her.”

Ariana also discussed THAT rap from the BAFTAs.

She revealed: “I was kind of recovering from walking pneumonia. I kind of was [really ill]. But I’m a theatre kid, ‘the show must go on’ sort of thing. We’d gone down the road for so long. I didn’t have the heart to back out and I had been deemed well enough to continue to work. I wasn’t going to go on and make anyone sick, it’s a room full of very famous and talented people, so not to be irresponsible by any stretch of the mind but I really wanted to go and support the folks.

“We were trying something new and what I do is typically high energy and you know, hindsight is 20/20 and maybe recovering from walking pneumonia is not the time to be in six inch heels and a big fat pink skirt and jump off a chair and try and rap at the same time. It’s OK… live performance that’s what it’s all about. It’s live, it’s not going to sound like an album. That’s what you want to see. You actually want to see people mess up because you know they’re alive. I think it’s special that way, but that’s just my personal view.”

The Jonathan Ross Show – Christmas Special streams Christmas Eve on ITVX from 9am and airs On ITV1 at 10:15PM.

About the author: Josh Darvill

Josh is Stageberry's editor with over five years of experience writing about theatre in the West End and across the UK. Prior to following his passion for musicals, he worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist.


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