West Side Story Banned in Saudi Arabia and Other Gulf Nations Over Transgender Character: Report

·2 min read

Steven Spielberg's West Side Story will not be dancing into theaters in the Gulf countries overseas.

The musical adaptation, which is out Friday, has been banned in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman or Kuwait, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The outlet reported the film wasn't granted a release certificate in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, while the UAE, Qatar and Oman requested cuts from the film that Disney refused to make.

The decision to ban the film was due to the transgender character of Anybodys, played by non-binary actor Iris Menas, THR reported. (Homosexuality and LGBTQ rights are outlawed in those countries.)

RELATED: West Side Story Remake Praised by Critics: 'Spielberg Topped the Original'

Marvel's Eternals was also banned from the Gulf countries for featuring the MCU's first gay superhero Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and the kiss he shares with his husband Ben (played by Haaz Sleiman).

Spielberg's reimagining of the classic Broadway musical comes 60 years after the 1961 film debuted in theaters.


Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios

The new adaptation stars Hamilton's Ariana DeBose as Anita, newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria, Ansel Elgort as Tony and David Alvarez as Bernardo.

Rita Moreno, who starred in the 1961 classic, also makes a return to the musical in the new role of Valentina, a store owner who offers Tony work after he attempts to rebuild his life following a prison stint.

In August, Zegler told Town & Country the Spielberg film wasn't "trying to recreate, frame for frame, the 1961 movie."

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"That film exists as this incredible piece of pop culture that everyone has seen and been affected by in some way. I don't think any of us would ever try to recreate that," said Zegler, 20. "There are things to improve on and things to address. It's such a cultural phenomenon, that film and the musical in general."

"I think the way Steven and [screenwriter] Tony [Kushner] framed it to all of us when we were auditioning, when we were rehearsing, when we were shooting, was, 'We are making a movie of the original Broadway musical. This is our take on a story that every-one has heard, and knows so well, and really loves,'" she recalled.

The film also stars Mike Faist, Maddie Ziegler, Myles Erlikc, Kyle Allen, Ezra Menas and Brian d'Arcy James.

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