After 30 Thousand Auditions, Meet Maria for Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’

Steven Spielberg‘s upcoming West Side Story retelling has rounded out the cast after a reported 30 thousand auditions with an unknown in the lead role of Maria.

According to multiple outlets (Deadline, Variety, THR), 17-year old high school student Rachel Zegler will be playing the lead of Maria alongside Ansel Elgort as Tony.

Zelger commented on the news to Deadline, and revealed that she submitted a video of herself singing the iconic West Side Story songs “Tonight” and “I Feel Pretty” after seeing the casting notice on Twitter:

“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast. West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”

Spielberg said in a statement about ensuring his production had the blessing of the Hispanic/Latino community:

“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.”

As staggering as that audition number is, it sort of makes sense with Spielberg’s passion for this particular project.

It was also announced that Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose will play Anita, the role immortalized in the original film by Rita Moreno, who will appear in the film and serve as a producer. DeBose’s Broadway credits include the original cast of HamiltonA Bronx Tale: The MusicalPippinMotown: The Musical and Bring It On: The Musical. She was even a contestant in 2009 on So You Think You Can Dance!

DeBose 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. I relate so strongly to Anita – a strong Puerto Rican woman who came to New York in search of opportunity – and I feel so fortunate for the chance to work with this amazing cast and creative team.”

Rita Moreno said:

“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!”

Production is expected to start soon on Spielberg’s West Side Story.

About Mary Anne Butler

Bleeding Cool News Editor Mary Anne Butler (Mab, for short) has been part of the fast-paced world of journalism since she was 15, getting her start in album reviews and live concert coverage for a nationally published (print) music magazine. She eventually transitioned to online media, writing for such sites as UGO/IGN, ComicsOnline, Geek Magazine, Ace of Geeks, Aggressive Comix (where she is still Editor-in-Chief), and most recently Bleeding Cool.


Over the past 10 years, she’s built a presence at conventions across the globe as a cosplayer (occasionally), photographer (constantly), panelist and moderator (mostly), and reporter (always).

Interviews, reviews, observations, breaking news, and objective reporting are the name of the game for the founder of Harkonnen Knife Fight, a Dune-themed band with an international presence.

Though she be but little, she is fierce. #MabTheProfessional

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