The legendary director used to get scolded by his parents for singing its songs at the dinner table. As his version hits the big screen, he talks about his own dancefloor prowess – and the ‘obscure movie club’ he formed with Sondheim

It’s a winter afternoon and you’re about to begin a video call with Steven Spielberg. The perfect opportunity, then, to make a quick brew in your Gremlins mug (Spielberg produced that devilish 1984 horror-comedy) then brandish it in front of the webcam for the director’s benefit. “Oh, I love that, thank you,” he says, chuckling softly. Then he wags a cautionary finger: “Don’t drink it after midnight!”

The most famous and widely cherished film-maker in history is all twinkling eyes and gee-whiz charm today. He is about to turn 75 but first there is the release of his muscular new take on West Side Story, which marks his third collaboration with the playwright Tony Kushner, who also scripted Munich and Lincoln. Spielberg is at pains to point out that this not a remake of the Oscar-laden movie but a reimagining of the original stage musical. “I never would have dared go near it had it only been a film,” he says. “But, because it’s constantly being performed across the globe, I didn’t feel I was claim-jumping on my friend Robert Wise’s 1961 movie.”

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