Rachel Zegler saw the first cut of “West Side Story” in September 2021, along with co-stars Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez and Mike Faist. When director Steven Spielberg surprised them by showing up at the end of the credits, he was met with tears and gratitude.
The latest episode of Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast features 20-year-old Zegler, whose career is taking off. The rising star discusses white Latina privilege, the Oscar buzz that she’s been receiving for her performance and her upcoming roles in the superhero sequel “Shazam 2” and Disney’s live action version of “Snow White.” Listen below!
Discovered by Steven Spielberg out of 30,000 hopefuls, Zegler won the coveted role of Maria in the remake of the 1961 Oscar-winning best picture. In this new version, Zegler and Elgort play Maria and Tony, whose ill-fated romance flags the fires of the bitter rivalry between local street gangs the Sharks and the Jets. The cast also includes DeBose as Anita, Alvarez as Bernardo and Faist as Riff. Rita Moreno, who won the Oscar for her performance as Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of the musical, appears in the remake in a new role and served as an executive producer. The remake was written by Tony Kushner and marks Spielberg’s first feature-length musical.
Zegler is inarguably the biggest breakout star of the year, not just in what she showcases in her iconic duets (like “Tonight” and “One Hand, One Heart”) but also in her infectious ownership of the camera, best displayed in the lighter “I Feel Pretty,” which displays her acting range. If nominated for best actress, she would be the youngest Latina nominee in history. She would also join the few actresses that have landed noms for their debut roles, including Catalina Sandino Moreno (“Maria Full of Grace”) and Yalitiza Aparicio (“Roma”).
“West Side Story” is distributed by 20th Century Studios and is currently in theaters.
Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast is hosted by Clayton Davis, Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Jenelle Riley and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in movies. Michael Schneider is the producer and Drew Griffith edits. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.