Spielberg casts Colombian, 17, as his Maria

Out of 30,000 who auditioned for the central role in West Side Story, Stephen Spielberg has picked Rachel Zegler, 17, from New Jersey.

Her family are migrants from Colombia.

Ansel Elgort will play Tony.

Rachel is an avid Youtuber and Instagrammer who has sung Maria in a school play.

Instagram pic.

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    • Her father is an American, from New Jersey himself (as are her paternal grandfather and great-grandfather).
      ClassicFM probably got confused with the American tendency to calculate their makeup, in which case Mrs. Zegler’s father is 36% Polish, 22.8% German, 15.39% Irish, 13.172% Italian, 11.0052% Wægmunding and 1.6328% Dutch.

    • Simply American! Born and brought up in England or any part of the United Kingdom, regardless of parents, makes you British, regardless of what passport you waive in the air!

      • Er…people have the right to construct their own identities, which don’t always match the citizenship of the person.

        Even in Britain many people identify themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh, or even Irish despite the fact they are citizens of the United Kingdom.

  • I was quite excited when I heard about this project. Tony Kushner did a nice job translating the libretto of Krasa’s opera Brundibar into English, and the hokey, slangy dialogue of the original movie could certainly use a major rewrite. On the other hand there is always the danger that this movie could end up ‘wokey’ instead of hokey. (One wonders what famed Latinos such as Laurents, Bernstein, Robbins and Sondheim think of the likes of Spielberg and Kushner appropriating their work.) And will people of Puerto Rican descent accept the leading role going to a Columbian?

    • How is their work being appropriated? WSS is still well under copyright, and the Bernstein and Robbins estates – and Sondheim – would have to sign off on the project, and collect a nice licensing fee and royalties for their trouble. And IIRC the role of Maria is Puerto Rican. This young is of Columbian ancestry, which at least makes her closer to the mark than Natalie Wood (or Dame Kiri).

    • Indeed, on screen only her singing and acting should matter. So the headline is not only factually incorrect (people above discuss her ethnicity from different viewpoints, but nobody called her just Colombian), but also irrelevant. I think we should all agree that misinformation doesn’t help. Especially when it is sometimes so very easy to check basic facts.

  • One way to make some folks happy would be to end the film with Maria, her family and friends being expelled from their homes and relocated in the Bronx. Then show wrecking balls tearing down their homes to make way for Lincoln Center. Then end with Lenny B conducting the New York Philharmonic in the new Philharmonic Hall.

  • Buravo !!
    There is voice volume, comfortable with punchy singing voice.
    It seems to be the Irene Kyara, sang at a famous musical !!

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