EXCLUSIVE: Although her upcoming breakout role as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s new retelling of West Side Story doesn’t bow until December, Rachel Zegler already appears to have found her next big role. Sources tell Deadline that Zegler is set to star as Snow White in Disney’s live-action adaptation of the film that started it all for the studio’s legendary slate of animated features. Marc Webb will direct, with Marc Platt producing. Production is expected to start in 2022.
“Rachel’s extraordinary vocal abilities are just the beginning of her gifts,” Webb said. “Her strength, intelligence and optimism will become an integral part of rediscovering the joy in this classic Disney fairytale.”
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 making sure it get 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 talent for several months for the role of Snow White. 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.
Zegler is no stranger to big auditions as she already went through it on West Side Story, when as a 17-year-old high schooler she beat out more than 30,000 actresses for the lead role of Maria. The new adaptation will bow December 10 and also stars Ansel Elgort and Rita Moreno.
On top of that, she also found her first big comic-book movie prior to her big break, joining Zachary Levi in D.C.’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods.
Zegler is repped by ICM Partners.