After months of searching and more than 30,000 auditions, the Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story has found its Maria. Rachel Zegler, a high school student from New Jersey, has been cast in the role opposite Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) who was tapped to play Tony last year. Zegler is a 17-year-old YouTube star, known for her covers of popular songs and played Maria in a local production of West Side Story.

Rachel Zegler Photo from Deadline

“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” Zegler said. “‘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.”

Other lead roles have also been cast, with Tony nominee Ariana DeBose slated to play Anita, David Alvarez, who originated the role of Billy Elliot on Broadway, as Bernardo and Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino.

Spielberg announced the West Side Story remake just over a year ago and has spent that time searching for the perfect cast. He and his team have been committed to finding actors who were of Puerto Rican or Latinx descent to portray the Sharks in the film.

“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,” Spielberg said. “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.”

arian debose david alvarez josh andres rivera rachel zegler

Photo from Deadline

In December 2018, Spielberg and Tony Award winner Tony Kushner (Lincoln), who is adapting West Side Story, traveled to the University of Puerto Rico to learn about the role performing arts plays on the island.

The new version, produced by 20th Century Fox, will include some tweaks, such as a replacing Doc, the owner of the corner store, with Valentina, played by Rita Moreno, the original Anita. However, Spielberg intends to remain true to the source material, including all of Leonard Bernstein’s original songs as well as some of the iconic dance numbers.

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