Unknown Jersey girl Rachel Zegler cast as Maria in Spielberg's 'West Side Story'

Posted: Updated:
LOS ANGELES -

Steven Spielberg has cast an unknown 17-year-old from Passaic County to play Maria in his remake of "West Side Story."

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

The high school student 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 on stage a few summers ago.

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.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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