Steven Spielberg's 'West Side Story' Casts High Schooler As Maria

Steven Spielberg's 'West Side Story' Casts High Schooler As Maria

Darren Sullivan
January 16, 2019

Steven Spielberg has cast an unknown 17-year-old as Maria in his upcoming West Side Story remake. (Moreno has an expanded role in this remake as well, this time as a different character.) David Alvarez, who won a Tony for his work in Billy Elliott: The Musical, is playing Bernardo, Maria's brother and the leader of the Sharks.

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

The young actor describes herself as a "singer/songwriter who works as a wedding singer" on her YouTube channel, where she has uploaded videos of herself singing hits from Queen, Ariana Grande and Sia.

The casting team put out a call a year ago for Latina and Latino actors that received more than 30,000 submissions.

In addition to Zegler, the film has also added three Broadway heavy hitters to the Sharks side of the cast, with Tony Award victor David Alvarez set to play Bernardo, Tony nominee Ariana DeBose playing Anita, and former Hamilton cast member Josh Andres Rivera on board as Chino.

The 1961 film adaptation won ten Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Moreno, now 86, Best Picture and Best Director.

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Added Zegler: "I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this unbelievable cast".

Spielberg's adaptation of West Side Story is set to begin filming in the summer of 2019.

"As a colombian-american woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like maria are so important.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". The play was inspired by William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and set in a NY neighborhood and focused on the rivalry between two gangs. Munich and Lincoln scribe Tony Kushner is adapting the play's book for the screen, however the original soundtrack and late-1950s setting are set to remain.

Maria was played by Natalie Wood in the 1961 movie and her singing voice was later dubbed by Marni Nixon for most of the musical numbers.

The 17-year-old posted on Instagram to announce the news, saying she had previously played the character on stage.