A hitherto unknown young woman plays the role of Maria in the remake of the icon West side storydirected by Steven Spielberg, which premieres in December.
17-year-old Rachel Ziegler was chosen from among 30,000 candidates who responded to an advertisement in January 2018 inviting Latino actors and actresses to play various roles in the Spielberg movie, which received rave reviews.
In the 1961 film version of the musical, non-Hispanic actors played several Puerto Rican characters whose skin had darkened with makeup, something Spielberg didn’t want to happen this time.
Rachel Ziegler is the daughter of a Polish American and Colombian woman who, before being cast as Maria, was finishing high school in her native New Jersey.
In February 2021, it was announced that Ziegler would star in the movie “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and a few months later it became known that she had been chosen to play Snow White in the new Disney movie.
At the moment, she is receiving rave reviews for her role in West Side Story and there is talk of her being nominated for an Academy Award.
This Thursday, the prestigious US National Review Board named her Actress of the Year for the role of Maria.
Puerto Rican-born actress Ariana Debuze, who plays Anita, is also receiving rave reviews.
Controversy with the original movie
the film West side story 1961 was criticized for having Cast mostly white To play Latin characters.
Natalie Wood, who played Maria in the movie, 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 Kanita, said in the Thick podcast that at the time she felt uneasy about the dark makeup that was being put on. she has. to its owners.
Moreno, the first Latino to win an Academy Award, also appears in Spielberg’s edition.
When he announced the remake, the director made it clear that he would only hire Latin actors and actresses for Puerto Rican roles.
“I am very happy to assemble a staff that reflects the incredible wealth of talent in the Hispanic community in the United States,” Spielberg told Deadline at the time.