Steven Spielberg has cast Rachel Zegler as Maria in his upcoming 'West Side Story' adaption.

The 72-year-old director has chosen the 17-year-old New Jersey high school student to make her film debut and take on the iconic role - made famous by Natalie Wood in the original 1961 film -across from Ansel Elgort's Tony.

The 'E.T' director previously insisted that the lead role of Maria in his reboot - which follows the love story of a 1950s Romeo and Juliet who are caught between two New York gangs, the American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks, - would exclusively go to a Latina actress.

Spielberg told The Hollywood Reporter: ''When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors. I'm so happy that we've assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America's multi-faceted Hispanic community. I am in awe of the sheer force of the talent of these young performers, and I believe they'll bring a new and electrifying energy to a magnificent musical that's more relevant than ever.''

Zegler added that she was ''humbled'' to be offered such a significant role to the Hispanic community and can't wait to get started.

She said: ''I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast. West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character.

''As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.''