A young woman until now almost unknown plays Maria in the new version of the emblematic West side story, Directed by Steven Spielberg and premieres this December.
Rachel Zegler, 20, was chosen from among 30,000 candidates who responded to an ad in January 2018 calling for Latino actors and actresses for various roles in Spielberg’s film, which is receiving rave reviews.
In the 1961 film version of the musical, many of the Puerto Rican characters were played by non-Latino actors who had their skin darkened with makeup, something Spielberg did not want to happen this time.
Rachel Zegler is the daughter of an American of Polish descent and a Colombian woman, and before being chosen to play Maria, she was finishing high school in her native New Jersey.
In February 2021, it was announced that Zegler will participate in the film “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and a few months later it became known that she was chosen to play Snow White in the new Disney adaptation.
He is currently receiving rave reviews for his role in West side story and there is even talk that she could be nominated for an Oscar.
This Thursday the prestigious US National Board of Review chose her as the best actress of the year for playing Maria.
Puerto Rican-born actress Ariana DeBose, who plays Anita, is also receiving rave reviews.
Controversy with the original film
The movie West side story 1961 was criticized for having a predominantly white cast to play Latino characters.
Natalie Wood, who played Maria in the film, was a Russian American.
In 2017, actress Rita Moreno, one of the few Puerto Ricans in the 1961 film, who also won an Oscar for her role as Anita, said on the podcast The Thick that at that moment she felt uncomfortable with the dark makeup that they put on her companions.
Moreno, the first Latina to win an Oscar, also appears in the Spielberg remake.
When he announced the remake, the director made it clear that he would only hire Latino actors and actresses for the Puerto Rican roles.
“I am very happy to have assembled a cast that reflects the impressive wealth of talent in the US Hispanic community,” Spielberg told the site. Deadline at the time.
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