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Steven Spielberg's West Side Story film casts Rachel Zegler as Maria

The hit film is expected to start filming this summer and has announced a release date in 2020

Steven Spielberg
(© STEVEN SPIELBERG by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0)

Casting and a release date for Steven Spielberg's upcoming film adaptation of West Side Story has been announced.

Maria will be played by 17 year-old Rachel Zegler, who, according to Deadline, beat over 30,000 auditionees to win the role after seeing a call-out for open auditions in January 2018. Zegler will be making her screen debut in the film. She is joined by Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) as Tony.

Broadway stars Ariana DeBose (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical) will play Anita, Josh Andrés Rivera (Hamilton) will play Chino and David Alvarez (Billy Elliot: The Musical) will play Bernardo. Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 movie, will take on the role of Valentina – a new character based on shop owner Doc.

A clip of Zegler singing went viral after her casting was announced last night, with stars including Lily Collins and Zach Braff retweeting a video from December 2018:

Set in 1950s New York, the classic musical tells of the gang rivalry between the New York Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. It is loosely based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and features classic numbers including "I Feel Pretty", "Something's Coming", "America", "Cool" and "Tonight". It has music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and conception and choreography by Jerome Robbins.

The original film came out in 1961 and starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris. It went on to win ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture.