Still from 'West Side Story' by Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios
Emboldened by the continued success of their releases (well, somewhat), Walt Disney Studios has finally gotten around to remaking the so-called “big enchilada,” Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and earlier on Tuesday, Deadline broke the news that the production, which will be helmed by (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb, has found its lead. Unsurprisingly, the casting call came from within the House of Mouse — or at least from one of the disheveled properties adjacent to it in the Disney Corporate Cul-de-sac, 20th Century Studios — and the studio has tapped Rachel Zegler, star of Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story to play Snow White. For an actor found after an open casting call attended by some 30,000 known and unknown quantities, it’s impressive that she’s managed to book three solid gigs in three years — West Side, the Shazam sequel, and now this — without having any screen acting credits to her name, and it must speak to her talent.
We’re sure Zegler will be a fine lead, but, man, there have been a lot of attempts in the past decade to try and reinvent the Snow White tale for a modern audience, each played by a then-ascendant star. There was Snow White and the Huntsman, whose horrendous critical reception and the awful press cycle surrounding it led to Kristen Stewart spreading her wings and flying away from the studio system after years under its thumb to France in order to hang with Olivier Assayas and make good on that whole “generational talent” promise. Then there was Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror, an unparalleled disaster that sought whimsy where Huntsman saw Lord of the Rings-esque action, and, when combined with Rules Don’t Apply a few years later, nearly killed Lily Collins’ career before it had a chance to thrive. And, funnily enough, when it did finally thrive, it was because she went to France and made a Netflix series. Crazy kismet, huh?
Anyway, Webb and Zegler will be working alongside songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are best known for their contributions to a little film called La La Land. According to Deadline, that’s the reason why they’ve been slow-walking production on this one: they want to get the music right. Which, yes, they probably should, given that the original is plenty iconic in its own right, being, you know, the film that introduced feature-length animation to the masses and made Disney into a viable studio. But, perhaps, this hesitation might be somewhat due to the fact that remaking Snow White is essentially all they really have left in the playbook at this point before they start re-remaking these films or giving them inevitable sequels. It’s the last valley to travel, the film being the crown jewel in Old Walt’s crown, and it may represent the final severing of ties from the Disney of old into whatever it is now. The canon has been replaced, and worse than it being left behind in the “Disney Vault” to rot, it’s being buried in plain sight on streaming.
No matter whatever happens with this film, it might not be a bad idea for Zegler to book a ticket to Paris right after this film comes out — probably 2023, given that Deadline says production will begin next year — because it’s a win-win situation. Either the reviews are horrible and she goes off to Paris to work with Leos Carax or something, or the reviews are great and she’s just able to have a fantastic vacation while also working on invigorating projects with interesting filmmakers.