Spielberg casts unknown as West Side Story's Maria

YouTube  Rachel Zegler

YouTube Rachel Zegler

Zegler will star alongside Tony-nominee Ariana DeBose as Anita, "Billy Elliot" alum David Alvarez as Bernardo and former "Hamilton" tour cast member Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino, Deadline says.

When he needed a Tony for his West Side Story remake, Steven Spielberg went with a name: young Ansel Elgort.

Veteran performer Rita Moreno will play Valentina, an expanded version of the character Doc, the owner of the store in which Tony works. (For context, Alden Eherenreich won the role of young Han Solo after a casting call that "only" included around 3,000 people.) Zegler will make her film debut in this version of West Side Story playing Maria, the innocent younger sister of a gang leader in 1950s New York City.

Zegler is one talented teenager, something you can tell from her YouTube and Twitter videos - including those which show she's already nailed the part of Maria in a performance of West Side Story at Bergen Performing Arts Center in New Jersey.

According to the publisher, Spielberg and his production team set out to cast the film with performers from the Puerto Rican and broader Latinx community.

'I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this incredible cast, ' Rachel said in a statement to Deadline. Zegler submitted a video of herself singing Tonight and Me Siento Hermosa (I Feel Pretty).

"When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and [West Side Story gang] the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors", said Spielberg. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community, ' she gushed.

'West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character.

"This role means the world to me and I can not wait to dance with you on set", the 87-year-old actress wrote on Twitter. The play was inspired by William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and set in a NY neighborhood and focused on the rivalry between two gangs.

Maria was played by Natalie Wood in the 1961 movie and her singing voice was later dubbed by Marni Nixon for most of the musical numbers.

The film, which is scheduled to begin filming this year, is being adapted from the original 1957 Broadway musical.

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