Steven Spielberg casts unknown NJ teen Rachel Zegler in ‘West Side Story’

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LOS ANGELES — Steven Spielberg has cast an unknown 17-year-old from New Jersey to play Maria in his remake of "West Side Story."

Deadline first reported Monday the director picked Rachel Zegler after auditioning more than 30,000 hopefuls.

The high school student from Clifton posted photos of herself and other cast members on Instagram as she expressed her gratitude. She says she never could imagine she'd get the role after playing Maria onstage a few summers ago.

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when i played maria on stage a few summers ago, i never could have imagined that i’d be taking on the role again in steven spielberg’s ‘west side story’. i send a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this incredible dream a reality— i never could’ve done it alone. i am so honored to join the legendary @TheRitaMoreno, @ansel, @arianadebose, @davidalvarezofficial, @joshandresrivera and more in telling this impeccably poignant story. as a colombian-american woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like maria are so important. to be able to bring that role to life— a role that means so much to the hispanic community— is so humbling. i hope you’re all as excited as i am. ♥️✨

A post shared by rachel zegler (@rachelzegler) on

Zegler wrote, "As a Colombian-American woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like Maria are so important."

Ansel Elgort has been cast as her love interest in the adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical that retells "Romeo and Juliet" with New York street gangs.

Filming is set for this summer.

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