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Steven Spielberg casts high school student Rachel Zegler in West Side Story

Steven Spielberg casts high school student Rachel Zegler in West Side Story

While she's no stranger to West Side Story, having previously played Maria for a high-school production, the soon-to-be remake will be her first feature film.

And on Monday director Steven Spielberg's West Side Story movie revealed that New Jersey High School student Rachel Zegler will star as Maria. 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 was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character".

"I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this fantastic cast", Zegler says in a press release.

The up-and-coming star maintains a popular YouTube channel where she posts covers of songs and answers questions about everything from her daily life to her impressive vocal range.

On Tuesday, Zegler wrote on Twitter that she "could say so many things" in regards to the announcement "but all I can muster is thank you".

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 victor David Alvarez will play Maria's brother Bernardo, Tony nominee Ariana DeBose will play Anita, and Josh Andres Rivera will play Chino.

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It's not just any film, either - the upcoming adaptation is being helmed by none other than Steven Spielberg, who put out an open casting call for Latinx actors a year ago.

Inspired by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story famously centers on the rivalry between young street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks.

She beat out 30,000 wannabes to land the role.

Ariana said: 'I'm honored to follow in the footsteps of the remarkable women who have played Anita - including Chita Rivera and, of course, the incomparable Rita Moreno. (For context, Alden Eherenreich won the role of young Han Solo after a casting call that "only" included around 3,000 people.) Zegler will make her film debut in this version of West Side Story playing Maria, the innocent younger sister of a gang leader in 1950s New York City.

"This role means the world to me and I can not wait to dance with you on set", the 87-year-old actress wrote on Twitter.

The film, which is scheduled to begin filming this year, is being adapted from the original 1957 Broadway musical.

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