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Spielberg casts newcomer in iconic West Side Story role

Author
NZ Herald,
Section
Entertainment,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 15 January 2019, 8:11p.m.
Rachel Zegler will play Maria in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story. (Photo / Instagram)
Rachel Zegler will play Maria in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story. (Photo / Instagram)

Steven Spielberg has cast an unknown 17-year-old as Maria in his upcoming West Side Story remake.

New Jersey High School student Rachel Zegler, 17, won the role after Spielberg received 30,000 submissions for the role.

She will play Maria opposite Ansel Elgort, who will play Tony, according to Variety.

Rounding out the cast are Broadway stars Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo and Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino.

Veteran performer Rita Moreno will play Valentina, an expanded version of the character Doc, the owner of the store in which Tony works. Moreno won an Oscar for playing Anita in the 1961 film, and is an executive producer for Spielberg's remake.

View this post on Instagram

when i played maria on stage a few summers ago, i never could have imagined that i’d be taking on the role again in steven spielberg’s ‘west side story’. i send a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this incredible dream a reality— i never could’ve done it alone. i am so honored to join the legendary @TheRitaMoreno, @ansel, @arianadebose, @davidalvarezofficial, @joshandresrivera and more in telling this impeccably poignant story. as a colombian-american woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like maria are so important. to be able to bring that role to life— a role that means so much to the hispanic community— is so humbling. i hope you’re all as excited as i am. ♥️✨

A post shared by rachel zegler (@rachelzegler) on Jan 14, 2019 at 1:08pm PST

The casting team reportedly put a call out for a the role of Maria and received 30,000 replies. Zegler submitted a video of herself singing Tonight and Me Siento Hermosa (I Feel Pretty).

"When I played Maria on stage a few summers ago, I never could have imagined that I'd be taking on the role again in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story," Zegler wrote on Instagram.

"As a Colombian-American woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like Maria are so important. To be able to bring that role to life - a role that means so much to the hispanic community - is so humbling."

Zegler has an active YouTube channel on which she shares her own covers of popular songs, including a version of Shallow, from A Star is Born.

Zegler also previously shared a snippet of herself singing Shallow on Twitter, which went viral in December.

 

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