The re-imagined movie — which stars Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Josh Andrés Rivera, Ana Isabelle, Corey Stoll, Brian d’Arcy James, Curtiss Cook and more — doesn’t have an official release date just yet, but it’s set to come out sometime in December 2021. But wait, who is that girl who was cast as Maria? How old is she? Where have you seen her before? What else has she starred in? And how did she land the role? Here’s everything you need to know about Zegler…
Before This Movie, Rachel Zegler Was A Normal Girl
This may come as a shock, but Zegler hasn’t actually starred in anything before this! Yep, this is actually her first major on-screen role, and it’s a pretty big one to get. She grew up in New Jersey and was a senior in high school when she got the part, after the director, Spielberg, held an open casting call for Latinx actors. According to Seventeen Magazine, the young star submitted a video of herself singing singing the tracks “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa,” and she beat out tens of thousands of other people!
She’s Always Had Her Heart Set On Theater
Growing up, Zegler was always a big theater fan. And before she landed the role, she would upload videos of herself singing different Broadway tunes to YouTuber. She also starred in many local productions — including her school’s version of West Side Story!
“When I played Maria on stage a few summers ago, I never could have imagined that I’d be taking on the role again in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story,” she gushed on Instagram back when she was first cast in the movie. “I send a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this incredible dream a reality — I never could’ve done it alone.”
She Is Proud To Be A Columbian-American Actress
Zegler is Columbian-American, which makes the role of Maria even more important to her.
“As a Colombian-American woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like Maria are so important,” she continued in her post. “To be able to bring that role to life — a role that means so much to the hispanic community— is so humbling. I hope you’re all as excited as I am.”
And according to Zegler, this role is very important to her because she wants to be a role model to young Latinx girls.
“[This movie is] a beautiful display of Latin joy and the way that young Latin girls deserve to see themselves — dancing around in pretty dresses and singing about loving themselves,” she told Vogue in November 2020. “It’s something that’s mattered so much to me, being Latina, singing ‘I Feel Pretty’ and meaning it. I hope that young people everywhere will know that their features are gorgeous and their culture is beautiful. I think that’s what it’s meant to my family.”
She Went Viral On Twitter Before Landing The Role
Although she may not have starred in anything before this, you may have seen Zegler’s face on Twitter before. Why? Well, she actually went viral back in 2018 after she posted a video of herself covering Lady Gaga‘s song “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, and completely blew everyone away with her vocals. The actress and singer also dropped her first official single, called “Let Me Try,” in April 2021, and it’s a total bop.
Get Ready To See Her In Another Major Film
Despite her first movie not even being out yet, Zegler has already landed another role! Back in June 2021, it was announced that she is going to play Snow White in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of the classic fairytale.
And according to Deadline, it was her role in West Side Story that got Disney’s attention. Insiders explained that although her auditioned for Snow White “impressed everyone,” Disney execs saw an early screening of West Side Story and were “blown away” by her performance.
“It helped push the decision across the finish line,” an insider added.
Plus, besides Snow White, the 20-year-old is also gearing up to star in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, where she will reportedly “play a mysterious key role.”
She’s Very Excited For Everyone To See ‘West Side Story’
After filming wrapped last year, Zegler took to her Instagram to gush over how amazing Spielberg was to work with, calling him her “creative guardian and [an] absolute angel of a man.”
“Thank you beyond words for taking a chance on me. Your generosity will never cease to amaze me,” she wrote. “I have learned so much from my time in West Side Story. I’m not sure if any words will ever be good enough to sum up just how amazing it was. to my fellow cast mates, crew members, creative team and collaborators, and everyone in-between — we made a movie. a real movie! i don’t think i can fully comprehend that yet; I’ll let you know when I can.”
She added, “To all of you — sitting at home, wondering if we really need another version of West Side Story… wonder no longer. This movie is incredible. It’s important, and wonderful, and depicts what the world needs right now: LOVE. And finally, to all of the young women of color sitting there, wondering if their dreams will ever come true, yes, they will. Be patient and treat the world with kindness. Maintain your hearts of gold, but don’t be afraid to fight. This is it, my friends. this is what it looks like when your dreams come true. I am just so d**n lucky. And you know what? I feel pretty.”
As fans know, originally, West Side Story started as a Broadway play in 1957. The music and the story quickly stole the hearts of the nation, and in 1961 they decided to turn it into a movie — which won 10 Academy Awards that year! The story is loosely based off of William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet. It’s about two gangs — the Sharks and the Jets — battling for control of the upper west side streets. But the situation becomes even more complicated when one of the gang members falls in love with a rival’s sister. Sounds intense, right?! Ugh, can it be December already?!