By Dave McNary
Steven Spielberg has cast 17-year-old high schooler Rachel Zegler as Maria in his remake of “West Side Story.”
ArianaDeBose, David Alvarez, Josh Andres Rivera, Rachel Zegler
She will make her film debut opposite Ansel Elgort as Tony. Broadway veteran Ariana DeBose has been cast as Anita and David Alvarez as Bernardo. Theater performer Josh Andrés Rivera has been cast as Chino.
Spielberg has already cast Rita Moreno as Valentina, a reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works.
Moreno won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 film version of “West Side Story.” She’s also an executive producer on the remake.
“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,” Spielberg said. “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.”
The casting team for the remake put out a call online for Latin actors that received over 30,000 submissions. Zegler saw the notice on Twitter and submitted a video of herself singing “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa” (“I Feel Pretty”).
“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” said Zegler. “‘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.”
The film will be adapted for the screen from the original 1957 Broadway musical, which was the basis for the 1961 movie. The play was inspired by William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and set in a New York neighborhood and focused on the rivalry between two gangs. “West Side Story” won 10 Oscars, including best picture.
Natalie Wood played the role of Maria in the movie.
Spielberg, Kevin McCollum, and Kristie Macosko Krieger will produce the remake, which will be released by Fox. Filming for “West Side Story” is set to begin in the summer of 2019.