Rachel Zegler as Maria
West Side Story has found its star-crossed lovers. Last year, it was announced that Ansel Elgort had been cast to portray Tony in Steven Spielberg's forthcoming adaptation of the classic musical. Now, Deadline has revealed Maria will be portrayed by Rachel Zegler. The 17-year-old Colombian-American high school student was one of 30,000 hopefuls who participated in an online casting call, and her evidently stellar covers of "Tonight" and "I Feel Pretty" earned her the role.
Though Natalie Wood is famous for her impassioned portrayal of Maria in the original screen adaptation, the casting choice has since been met with criticism given that Wood was not Puerto Rican. In a statement shared with Variety, Zegler said she is "humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community."
If you haven't seen any iteration of the story on stage or the big screen, teenagers Tony and Maria are the protagonists of the tragic love story modeled after Romeo and Juliet. Tony is a former member of the American gang the Jets, which rivals the Puerto Rican gang the Sharks. Maria's older brother Bernardo is the leader of the Sharks, and thus enters the story's central dilemma. Tony was first portrayed by Larry Kert in the original 1957 musical and later by Richard Beymer in the 1961 film.
The cast is gradually coming together with three Broadway actors also confirmed. David Alvarez will play Bernardo, Josh Andrés Rivera will play Maria's fiancé, Chino, and Ariana DeBose will step into the iconic role of Anita, previously portrayed by Rita Moreno. Oh, and speaking of the venerated actress, she'll be involved in the remake, too. Moreno will appear as Valentina, who is a "reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works." Moreno is also listed as an executive producer on the film.