Steven Spielberg casts 17-year-old viral social media star as Maria in West Side Story

The YouTuber, who went viral with a video of her singing Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's Shallow, joins Ansel Elgort in the remake

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Steve Spielberg has found his Maria: after reportedly fielding more than 30,000 applications from around the world for the female lead in his West Side Story remake, the veteran director has cast 17-year-old YouTube star Rachel Zegler.


The Colombian-American musician will top-line the film alongside Ansel Elgort, who will play Tony.

Zegler has no professional acting experience, but she already has a few fans on Twitter, thanks to a viral video which sees her singing Lady Gaga’s meme-friendly bridge to the A Star is Born hit Shallow in an empty school hall. The video has now been viewed 8.4m times. She also has over 89,000 subscribers on YouTube, where she posts homemade videos of cover songs.

Spielberg had specified that he wanted his stars to be of Latin descent, in stark contrast to the 1961 original, in which Natalie Wood wore brown makeup to play the lead role.

West Side Story is a 20th century tale in the ilk of Romeo & Juliet, which sees two youngsters from rival New York gangs fall in love.


Musical theatre veterans Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez and Josh Andrés Rivera have been cast as Anita, Bernardo and Chino, respectively. Rita Moreno is also on board to play Valentina.