Rachel Zegler is a modern movie star. She exploded onto the scene with a stunning performance in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and a fairy tale of a Hollywood origin story; an unknown New Jersey schoolgirl beats out 30,000 with a self-taped audition!
Before the movie was released, she had filmed the superhero sequel Shazam! Fury of the Gods alongside Helen Mirren and had been cast in a live-action adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. As befitting a celebrity tale of today, though, she has also walked headfirst into a fame machine where glamour and accolades are undercut by trolling and online attacks. The spotlight on her has led to intense scrutiny of everything from her looks and personality to her ethnicity.
When Rachel Zegler, then a 17-year-old high school student, posted a tweet of her singing a pitch-perfect cover of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow" back in 2018, she went viral. To date, the 30-second clip has over 86,000 retweets and 374,000 likes. A month later, the teen was chosen to star opposite Ansel Elgort as Maria in Steven Spielberg's remake of West Side Story.
Rachel in Snow White
The original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs cartoon, based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale, was released in 1938. It was Disney’s inaugural animated feature and became a massive success for the studio. Insiders say the live-action film will expand upon the story and music from the original. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Oscar- and Tony-winning duo behind La La Land, The Greatest Showman, and Dear Evan Hansen, will write new songs for the movie. A big reason the studio has taken its time on this adaptation is to ensure it gets the music right, and insiders add that higher-ups are excited with what Pasek and Paul have come up with following early returns.
As for the casting process, Webb and studio execs had been meeting with a talent for the Snow White role for several months. Zegler's auditions impressed everyone, insiders say, but another factor was footage from West Side Story that blew away the Disney studio brass who’ve seen it and helped push the decision across the finish line.
The casting also marks a step in the right direction of Disney diversifying its Disney Princess characters after tapping Halle Bailey to play Ariel in the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid movie. The casting announcement was met with some backlash from toxic fans shocked and upset that an actress of Latin descent would be stepping into the iconic role of Snow White. Zegler couldn’t believe Disney made such a casting choice either, for what it’s worth.
Disney has not yet announced a release date for its live-action “Snow White” remake; production is set to take place this year. Marc Webb, director of the Snow White adaptation, said Rachel's 'strength, intelligence and optimism' made her the right choice for the iconic role.