Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story is coming together.
Seventeen-year-old unknown Rachel Zegler has been cast as the pivotal female lead Maria. A New Jersey high school student, Zegler was one of the 30,000 Latinx performers who submitted a video audition last year.
“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” Zegler says in a press release. “West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”
Zegler has a YouTube channel featuring several performance videos, including one of her starring in a past production of West Side Story.
Zegler will star opposite Baby Driver Ansel Elgort, who was cast three months ago as Tony. Also joining them are David Alvarez as Maria’s brother Bernardo, Ariana DeBose as Anita, and Josh Andres Rivera as Chino.
In the same press release, Spielberg offered his thoughts on the casting:
“When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors. I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community. I am in awe of the sheer force of the talent of these young performers, and I believe they’ll bring a new and electrifying energy to a magnificent musical that’s more relevant than ever.”
As previously reported, Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her turn as Anita in the 1959 original, will also star in the remake. This time around, however, she’ll be a “re-conceived and expanded version” of corner store owner Doc.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, who wrote Spielberg’s Munich, penned the adaptation, which is slated to begin production in the summer of 2019. Spielberg is also at work on Indiana Jones 5 and an adaptation of DC Comics’ Blackhawk.