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West Side Story is one of the most talked-about movies this awards season, largely because of Rachel Zegler‘s stunning performance. She turns in a wide array of talents within her debut performance in Steven Spielberg‘s re-adaptation of a classic musical, including dancing and singing. However, Zegler recently opened up about the torturous audition process that took an entire year before hearing the news that she got the part.

What is the story behind ‘West Side Story?’

'West Side Story' Rachel Zegler looking to the side in front of the 'West Side Story' step and repeat
Rachel Zegler | Jon Kopaloff/WireImage

West Side Story is originally based on the 1957 stage musical, which is inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The 1961 film brought the story to the silver screen, which earned it 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Spielberg has always wanted to make West Side Story, but it only now has become possible for the legendary filmmaker.

The story of West Side Story follows rival gangs called the Jets and the Sharks. They’re fighting over territory and aren’t willing to back down. Tony (Ansel Elgort) and María (Zegler) belong to opposite sides of the conflict, but they quickly fall in love. The news spreads fast, which results in a scheduled fight with dire consequences. Tony and María must figure out a way to stop the brawl before it’s too late.

Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ auditon process for Rachel Zegler was torturous

Extra talked with Zegler and her co-star Ariana DeBose about their experiences filming Spielberg’s West Side Story. The interviewer asked the stars about the audition process and getting cast in such a huge movie. Zegler explained that she had an extremely long audition process that lasted an entire year.

“Mine was a year long,” Zegler said. “It was from January 25, 2018 to January 9, 2019. I answered a Twitter casting call from Cindy Tolan, our incredible casting director that was just asking for four leads in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. They were looking for girls 15 through 25 to audition for María, so I just kind of sat down immediately and sent in a tape.”

Zegler continued: “Steven kind of tortured me for a year, brought me in like eight or nine times. Those are his words, by the way. I don’t consider it torture, but he always says that he made me sweat out my 17th year on Earth. It was like 16 through 17, I was just sweating, waiting by the phone. But, I got the part, so I can’t complain.”

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Zegler’s West Side Story performance will continue to dominate many conversations for the remainder of the year. However, this is only the beginning. She joined the cast of 2023’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Additionally, she’s set to play Snow White in a live-action adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Zegler will only continue to garner interest in future leading roles.

West Side Story hits theaters on Dec. 10.