After auditioning more than 30,000 people from around the world, Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ has found its Maria. They have cast 17-year old New Jersey High School student Rachel Zegler. She will make her film debut opposite Ansel Elgort as Tony.
Rounding out the principal Shark roles are Broadway veterans Ariana DeBose as Anita and David Alvarez as Bernardo. Lastly, theater performer Josh Andrés Rivera has been cast as Chino.
Spielberg and his team were committed to finding the best actors within the Puerto Rican as well as the broader Latinx community. The team has been conducting research and having conversations with Hispanic heritage and advocacy groups. In December 2018, Spielberg and Tony Kushner, who is adapting ‘West Side Story,’ sat with professors and students at the University of Puerto Rico (Universidad de Puerto Rico – Río Piedras) to learn more about performing arts on the island. The production team maintains a dialogue with the University and Puerto Rican filmmakers there.
The new cast members join Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 movie. She will play Valentina, a reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works. Moreno also serves as executive producer. Deadline exclusively broke the news about Moreno.
Spielberg had this to say about the project:
“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.”
Moreno also commented:
“I simply cannot wait to get on set to work with this group of young actors. What an ensemble, and I look forward to passing the baton to this next generation of Sharks!”
‘West Side Story‘ will be produced and directed by Spielberg. Moreover, the script is by Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. The film will be adapted for the screen from the original 1957 Broadway musical.
Additional casting announcements will be made in the coming weeks, specifically in regards to The Sharks and The Jets.
‘West Side Story’ will be released by Twentieth Century Fox. Filming is slated to start in the summer of 2019.