Steven Spielberg has selected newcomer Rachel Zegler to star as Maria in the West Side Story remake.
The 17-year-old high school student will take on the iconic lead after responding to the production’s open casting call with a video of herself singing the film’s “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa.”
According to Zegler’s YouTube channel, she is a self-professed “theatre kid” who works as a wedding singer and has performed in starring roles in onstage productions like “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and others.
The remake stars Ansel Elgort as Tony, Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo, Josh Andres Rivera as Chino and Rita Moreno (Anita in the 1961 film) as Valentina: a re-conceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works.
“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” Zegler told Deadline.
“…As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community,” she added.
Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story revolves around the rivalry between young street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks.
The 1961 film adaptation won ten Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Moreno, now 86, Best Picture and Best Director.
Spielberg’s adaptation of the film is set to start production this summer.