Newcomer Rachel Zegler to play Maria in West Side Story remake
Newcomer Rachel Zegler will be playing Maria in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake, TheWrap has confirmed. The 17-year-old will star opposite Ansel Elgort, who is portraying Tony, the co-founder of the Jets, in the adaptation.
Zegler joins a quartet of Latinx actors who will be playing key members of the Sharks, with three other members being portrayed by Broadway stars: Tony winner David Alvarez will play Maria’s brother Bernardo, Tony nominee Ariana DeBose will play Anita, and Josh Andres Rivera will play Chino.
Spielberg commented: “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.”
The cast joins the previously announced Rita Moreno, who originally played Anita in 1961’s West Side Story. In the new film, Moreno will take on the role of Valentina, a reimagined version of Tony’s boss, Doc, and she will also executive produce.
West Side Story is also largely based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and it features a star-crossed romance between Tony and a girl named Maria. While Tony is closely tied to the Jets, Maria’s brother, Bernardo, is the leader of the Sharks. When the story begins, the tensions between the rival Jets and Sharks gangs led each side to the brink of war. Tony and Maria’s courtship helped push that conflict over the edge.
Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner (Lincoln) wrote the new script for the West Side Story remake, an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical, which was written by Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim. Leonard Bernstein created the music for the show, which went on to earn six Tony nominations. The feature film adaptation was helmed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins on its way to 10 Academy Awards.
Spielberg, Kevin McCollum, and Kristie Macosko Krieger will produce the film musical, which will be released by Twentieth Century Fox. The feature is expected to begin filming in the summer of 2019.