Spielberg held an open casting call and selected the then-unknown actress to play the major role of María in the 2021 film.
Rachel Zegler is thinking back on her time spent working under the renowned director Steven Spielberg.
The actress, 22, joked about the advice she got from Spielberg, 76, during the filming of a specific sequence in the 2021 movie when posting a vintage clip of herself in West Side Story on X (previously Twitter) on Friday.
“On my first day on set, Steven Spielberg told me to not blink at all,” the actress recalled, sharing a video of herself as María approaching the camera while decked out in her red belt and white dance outfit.
“Think about Janusz Czak putting an entire light in your mouth and you have to A) not glance away B) not cry up, and C) not die cause it’s your first day on your first movie ever before,” she said.continued in a follow-up tweet, referring to the movie’s cinematographer.
Spielberg held an open casting call to locate a new face for the starring part of María when he chose to take on the remake of the 1961 musical classic. Zegler was selected from over 30,000 candidates worldwide, while also working part-time as a wedding vocalist and attending college at the time.
Her breakthrough performance in the 2021 film won her high praise, and the following year she won a Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy or musical. She shared an emotional reaction video of herself crying on X following her victory.
Regarding the much-coveted professional achievement, she also remarked, “On January 9, 2019, I was cast as Maria in West Side Story. And on January 9, 22—for that very performance—I recently received a Golden Globe. Life is really peculiar.”
Another pinch-me moment came from Zegler’s most recent performance as District 12 tribute Lucy Gray in the movie The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, which is currently showing in cinemas. She remembers watching the 2012 Hunger Games movie in theaters as a child while she was out on the red carpet for the movie’s London premiere earlier this month.
She told PEOPLE, “I went to see it with my mom and sister,” adding that the event will always be “ingrained in my memory.”
Zegler told PEOPLE she’s pleased Jennifer Lawrence and she didn’t connect until after filming on the most current chapter, even though Zegler just got the opportunity to meet and interact with her on their common knowledge of appearing in the franchise.
“[It] alleviated the stress and helped us feel like were were able to go about our own item,” she said.
“Although, if she ever intended to give them tips, I definitely would have remained ready for hearing them,” she said.