For Immediate Release
STEVEN SPIELBERG'S WEST SIDE STORY CASTS NEWCOMER RACHEL ZEGLER AS MARIA, BROADWAY VETS ARIANA DEBOSE AND DAVID ALVAREZ WILL PLAY ANITA AND BERNARDO, JOSH ANDRÉS RIVERA TO PORTRAY CHINO
The new cast members will join the previously-announced Ansel Elgort and Rita Moreno
LOS ANGELES, CA (January 14, 2019)—West Side Story has found its Maria: Rachel Zegler will make her film debut opposite Ansel Elgort as Tony. Rounding out the principal Shark roles are Broadway veterans Ariana DeBose as Anita and David Alvarez as Bernardo. Theater performer Josh Andrés Rivera has been cast as Chino.
Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg, the film will also feature Rita Moreno as Valentina, a reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works. Moreno – who won an Academy Award® for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 film version of West Side Story – will also serve as an Executive Producer.
“When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors. I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community,” said Spielberg. “I am in awe of the sheer force of the talent of these young performers, and I believe they’ll bring a new and electrifying energy to a magnificent musical that’s more relevant than ever.”
“I simply cannot wait to get on set to work with this group of young actors,” said Moreno. “What an ensemble, and I look forward to passing the baton to this next generation of Sharks!”
Zegler, 17, will join Elgort in leading the legendary musical. In January 2018, the casting team put out a call online for Latinx actors that received over 30,000 submissions. Zegler saw the notice on Twitter and submitted a video of herself singing “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa” (“I Feel Pretty”).
“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” said Zegler. “West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”
DeBose, who was nominated for a Tony Award in 2018 for her portrayal of Donna Summer in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, will play Anita, the role made famous on film by Moreno. DeBose’s other Broadway credits include the original cast of Hamilton, A Bronx Tale: The Musical, Pippin, Motown: The Musical and Bring It On: The Musical. Her screen debut came in 2009 as a competitor on So You Think You Can Dance.
“I’m honored to follow in the footsteps of the remarkable women who have played Anita – including Chita Rivera and, of course, the incomparable Rita Moreno,” said DeBose. “I relate so strongly to Anita – a strong Puerto Rican woman who came to New York in search of opportunity – and I feel so fortunate for the chance to work with this amazing cast and creative team.”
Alvarez, who won a Tony in 2009 for originating the title role in Billy Elliot: The Musical, will play Bernardo, Maria’s brother and the leader of the Sharks. Following his appearance in Billy Elliot, Alvarez served in the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, before returning to Broadway in 2014 to join the company of On the Town.
“My parents emigrated from Cuba with no connections, knowing no English, driven only by the hope of a better life. I know how challenging the decision was for them, and I see a lot of that internal conflict in Bernardo,” said Alvarez. “I have dreamt of playing this part since I first saw the original film, and I am so grateful for the chance to bring my own perspective and journey to this role – as an artist, a Veteran and a Latino – and to work with this incredible cast to breathe new life into these characters’ experiences.”
Rivera – an actor, singer and dancer who most recently appeared in the first national tour of “Hamilton” – will play the role of Chino.
“West Side Story is the dream for any performer, and to tackle it with this creative team is truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said Rivera. “I feel very fortunate to be able to portray the Nuyorican experience alongside these amazingly talented actors. I’m confident Puerto Ricans on and off the island will see ourselves reflected in this project.”
West Side Story will be produced and directed by Spielberg from a script by Oscar®-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. The film will be adapted for the screen from the original 1957 Broadway musical, which was written by Arthur Laurents with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and concept, direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins. Also leading the production are Tony Award-winning producer Kevin McCollum and Academy Award-nominated producer Kristie Macosko Krieger.
West Side Story will be released by Twentieth Century Fox. Filming is slated to start production in the summer of 2019.
Additional casting announcements will be made in the coming weeks.
# # #