Here’s Everything We Know So Far About The New ‘Westside Story’ Actress Rachel Zegler
As we’ve previously reported, a remake of the musical classic and all-around cinematic masterpiece, “West Side Story”, is in the works. And although many of the details are being kept under wraps, we’ve been able to gather tidbits of information about the updated version through press releases, interviews and word-of-mouth.
So, in order to quell our excitement while we wait for the release of this famous Latino-centric story, we’ve compiled 20 of the facts we know so far about the new “West Side Story”.
1. Steven Spielberg Will Be Directing
According to sources, Spielberg has wanted to make a musical for quite a while. The project, which will be produced by Fox, was officially announced in 2014.
2. Rita Moreno Will Be Returning
As we reported before, Puerto Rican queen Rita Moreno will return to the movie that made her a star. This time, she’ll be playing shop owner “Valentina”, a “re-conceived and expanded version of the character of Doc” according to insiders.
3. Moreno will also serve as an Executive Producer
Not one to sit on the sidelines, Moreno will also be involved in the production of the new “West Side Story”. She is reportedly involved as an Executive Producer in this new production. So, this version is guaranteed to be good.
4. Newcomer Rachel Zegler Will Be Playing Maria
Rachel Zegler, a 17-year-old Colombian-American high school student from New Jersey will play the iconic role of Maria. Ironically, Zegler will be reprising the role of Maria–she already played her in her high school’s production of “West Side Story”.
5. Hollywood Heartthrob Ansel Elgort Will Be Playing Tony
Ansel Elgort was the first actor to be announced as part of the new “West Side Story” cast. Interestingly enough, Elgort has already appeared in a production of “West Side Story”–his high school musical!
6. Afro-Latina Actress Ariana DeBose will be playing Anita
Broadway alum and all-around superstar Ariana DeBose will be playing the venerable Anita, a role that made Rita Moreno famous and won her an Oscar. This time, Spielberg is committed to casting actors of Latinx descent–DeBose is of Puerto Rican heritage.
7. David Alvarez will play Bernardo
Canadian actor of Cuban descent, David Alvarez, will be playing Bernardo, Maria’s brother and the leader of The Sharks. Alvarez has an extensive background in musical theater, first appearing in the Broadway production of “Billy Elliot the Musical” when he was only 14.
8. Josh Andrés Rivera will play Chino
Josh Andrés Rivera will play Chino, Maria’s intended husband that, unfortunately, she doesn’t love. Rivera spent the last year as a member of the national touring cast of “Hamilton”. He is of Puerto-Rican heritage.
9. Liam Payne is being considered for a role
10. The cast is already filled with Tony Award Winners and Nominees
Rita Moreno isn’t the only member of the cast with a Tony under her belt! The actor slated to play Bernardo, David Alvarez, previously won a Tony in 2009 for his portrayal of “Billy Elliot”. Additionally, Ariana DeBose (who will be playing Anita), has previously been nominated for a Tony for her work in “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”.
11. This has been Spielberg’s passion project for years
As we mentioned before, Spielberg has always been interested in making a musical. Way back in 2011, Spielberg told CNN that he would love to make “an old-fashioned musical”. According to him, he was waiting to find the “right subject matter or the right book or the right music” in order to fully commit. Looks like he found it!
12. Producers held an open casting call in 2018
Last January, a casting notice for the new “West Side Story” went out, specifically seeking Maria, Tony, Bernardo, and Anita. The notice stated that all actors “must be able to sing” with dance experience being “a plus”. Additionally, the Latino actors were required to have Spanish-speaking abilities!
13. The casting call received 30,000 submissions
Sources close to the production revealed that the online casting call for Latinx actors received more than 30,000 submissions. Now that’s a large talent pool!
14. Zegler initially saw the casting notice on Twitter
According to Zegler, she submitted a video of herself singing after seeing the casting call on Twitter. Her audition included herself singing “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa” (“I Feel Pretty”).
15. Celebrated playwright Tony Kushner will be penning the script
Kushner’s is a Tony, Emmy, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer whose credits include Oscar-winning movies like “Fences” and “Lincoln”. His scripts are renowned for their tragic elements.
16. Rita Moreno was initially “nervous” when she heard about the remake
Before Moreno was involved in the film’s re-make, she was vocally hesitant about the new version. When asked about the re-boot, Moreno admitted that she was “kind of torn about the Kushner aspect of it”. “I get nervous because you can only get just so gritty,” she said. “Then is it the ‘West Side Story’ we know?”. Looks like she changed her mind!
17. Spielberg is in constant dialogue with the University of Puerto Rico
In order to make sure that he’s approaching the newest version of “West Side Story” with knowledge and sensitivity (which the original version could’ve used more of), Spielberg has met with both professors and students at the University of Puerto Rico to “learn more about performing arts on the island”. According to sources, he will remain in “constant dialogue” with them throughout filming.
18. Filming is slated to start in the summer of 2019
Although Deadline confirmed that filming will start this summer, details on the location and the rest of the cast are still under wraps.
19. The new version will touch on “aspects of urban life” that the original didn’t explore
In an interview with Vanity Fair, screenwriter Tony Kushner stated that the newest version of WSS will not be a “straightforward remake” of the original movie. He continued, “there are aspects of urban life in ‘57, ‘58, ‘59 that weren’t touched on in the 1961 movie that we are focusing on”.
20. All of the classic songs will be in the new movie
In the same Vanity Fair interview, Kushner promised that “no one will leave the movie without hearing all the classic songs”. He added that he hoped “people will find a new way to love the story and to love the songs through our interpretation”. We, for one, can’t wait!
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