Rachel Zegler has been seen in character for the first time as she begins shooting scenes in the controversial Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs reboot.
The West Side Story actress, 21, takes on the titular role of Snow White in the live action remake, but her casting came under fire as critics questioned why Disney had chosen a Latina actress to play the traditionally ‘fair’ German character.
The upcoming movie also faced backlash from actor Peter Dinklage, who has a common form of dwarfism known as achondroplasia, after he slammed the studio for remaking the ‘backward’ film that reinforces stereotypes.
Yet Rachel brushed off the scandals as she was seen walking around the set in London on Thursday, while clad in the traditional princess costume.
One to watch: Rachel Zegler was seen in character as Snow White for the first time as she filmed the remake in London on Wednesday after the reboot was steeped in controversy over her Latina casting and ‘backwards’ portrayal of dwarves
The Golden Globe winner donned a billowing gown with a cobalt blue suede bodice and puff sleeves that was attached to a canary yellow tulle skirt.
She wasn’t ready to film straight away, however, with her raven locks held in place with several pins while she donned a pair of comfortable UGG boots to walk around set.
Last year, the Colombian-American actress hit back at critics who questioned why she had been cast for the Disney princess role traditionally portrayed by white actresses.
New role: The West Side Story actress, 21, takes on the titular role of Snow White in the live action remake, but her casting came under fire as fans questioned why Disney had chosen a Latina actress to play the traditionally ‘fair’ German character
Seeing double: Rachel brushed off the scandals as she was seen walking around the set in London on Thursday, while clad in the traditional princess costume (right: Snow White in the original 1937 animated Disney film)
In the classic fairytale, Snow White is described as the ‘fairest one of all’ with ‘skin as white as snow.’
Rachel took to social media in June to celebrate the news and fire back at a handful of haters who questioned her casting as the historically white character.
‘yes i am snow white no i am not bleaching my skin for the role,’ she wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
Striking: The Golden Globe winner donned a billowing gown with a cobalt blue suede bodice and puff sleeves that was attached to a canary yellow tulle skirt
Big break: Rachel found fame in the West Side Story remake last year playing Maria alongside Ansel Elgort as Tony
Marc Webb, director of the Snow White adaptation, said Rachel’s ‘strength, intelligence and optimism’ made her the right choice for the iconic role.
How Disney’s classic cartoons became ‘sensitive viewing’
Disney in 2020 began slapping racism warnings on some of its most iconic movies, including Peter Pan and The Jungle Book, to alert viewers to sensitive scenes.
The media conglomerate believes some of its older cartoons contain outdated racial or ethnic stereotypes, and now opens some films with a disclaimer.
It reads: ‘This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.’
Movies with warning include the 1970 musical comedy The Aristocats, 1955 canine love story Lady and the Tramp and 1960 adventure Swiss Family Robinson.
In relation to The Aristocats, Disney warns viewers about a scene where one cat, voiced by a white actor, yells out stereotypical Chinese ‘words’ while playing the piano with chopsticks.
Peter Pan viewers are warned that Native Americans Indians are referred to as ‘redskins’. Disney says scenes in which Peter and The Lost Boys dance in native American headdresses are a ‘form of mockery and appropriation of Native peoples’ culture and imagery.’
The Jungle Book has also been highlighted, namely for its depiction of the ape King Louie, which was accused of perpetuating a stereotype of African Americans.
Elsewhere 1941 release Dumbo comes under fire for its references to racist segregationist laws in the deep south, as well as its use of affected African-American voices.
The lead crow in the film is also called Jim Crow – a reference to the segregation laws in late 19th and early 20th Century America.
Lady And The Tramp has been placed on the list due to its perceived stereotyping of Asians courtesy of Siamese cats Si and Am, while a dog pound features canines with largely ethnic names and accents
‘Rachel’s extraordinary vocal abilities are just the beginning of her gifts,’ he said in a statement to AFP. ‘Her strength, intelligence and optimism will become an integral part of rediscovering the joy in this classic Disney fairytale.’
Rachel, of New Jersey, celebrated the announcement on social media, as a ‘dream come true’.
‘well… hello to a dream come true,’ she wrote on Instagram. She added on Twitter: ‘I HAVE MANIFESTED MY ENTIRE LIFE I THINK I THINK.’
Her casting comes more than two decades after Disney cast black singer Brandy, who is black, as Cinderella in a live-action 1997 film.
But Disney came under criticism in 2018 for ‘whitewashing’ Princess Tiana in cartoon movie Ralph Breaks the Internet, hastily redrawing the character with darker features just months before the film’s release.
Cuban-American singer Camila Cabello appeared as Cinderella in yet another live-action adaptation last year, which was produced by Sony-owned Columbia Pictures and released on Amazon’s Prime Video.
Black actress Halle Bailey takes on the role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid remake, which will hit cinemas in May 2023.
Meanwhile, Disney has said it’s ‘taking a different approach’ with Snow White’s seven companions, after Game Of Thrones actor Peter slammed the studio for remaking the ‘backward’ film that reinforces stereotypes.
In a statement last year, the company said it had been consulting with members of the dwarfism community throughout the early stages of production.
‘To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community,’ a spokesperson said.
‘We look forward to sharing more as the film heads into production after a lengthy development period.’
The response comes after Peter blasted Disney for remaking the 1937 film and shared he was surprised by the casting of Rachel as Snow White.
‘Literally no offense to anyone, but I was a little taken aback when they were very proud to cast a Latina actress as Snow White — but you’re still telling the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ Peter, 52, told Marc Maron on his WTF podcast.
‘Take a step back and look at what you’re doing there. It makes no sense to me. You’re progressive in one way and you’re still making that f***ing backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together, what the f*** are you doing man?’
Disney said the film, which is still years from release, will have cultural consultants, just like its life-action remakes of Aladdin and Mulan did.
The studio also claims it has been working on reimagining the dwarf characters since its earliest production stages.
Peter was promoting his new movie Cyrano on the podcast with Maron where they were discussing ‘wokeness’ when he discussed the Snow White reboot.
‘Have I done nothing to advance the cause from my soap box? I guess I’m not loud enough,’ Peter questioned.
He added he didn’t know what studio was remaking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but he recalled, ‘they were so proud of it.’
‘All love and respect to the actress and all the people who thought they were doing the right thing. But I’m just like, what are you doing?’ he added.
Peter has a form of dwarfism known as achondroplasia, which affects bone growth, causing him to have shorter limbs. He stands at 4 ft 5 in tall.
Co-star: Rachel will star alongside Gal Gadot (pictured) as the Evil Queen with Marc Webb directing from a script by Greta Gerwig and Erin Cressida Wilson
He said the story of Snow White can still be told, but it needs to be updated to reflect today’s standards.
‘If you tell the story of “Snow White” with the most f***ed up, progressive spin on it? Let’s do it. All in,’ he stated.
The original animated film was based on an 1812 fairy tale from The Brothers Grimm, though the dwarfs in that story lived in a cottage, not a cave.
Backlash: The movie faced backlash from Peter Dinklage, who has dwarfism, after he slammed the studio for remaking the ‘backward’ film that reinforces stereotypes
Peter’s concerns were shared by some charities, including the Restricted Growth Association in the UK.
‘I very much stand with Peter Dinklage on the disappointment and irritation towards Disney for the remake of Snow White,’ Rhonda Cutmore, a member of the association, told The Telegraph. ‘
As a 46-year-old woman with restricted growth, this story has always had a negative impact on me. Not just the physical characteristics, but the labelling of “Dopey” and “Bashful”, were not helpful in the playground.
She added: ‘People with restricted growth are in majority born to average height parents – they never live in gingerbread houses, have little bear beds nor live in homogeneous groups together.’
Dwarfism writer Steph Robson said she hoped film producers make an effort to avoid stereotypes in its retelling of the classic movie.
‘It is my hope that the latest live action remake, and Disney, will, at the very least go some way to redress the decades of the one-dimensional stereotypes that our disability continues to experience, especially within arts and cultural settings,’ she told the outlet.
The story has also been criticized as being ableist for portraying the dwarfs with lesser intelligence and Snow White seeing them as children.
Rachel will star alongside Gal Gadot as the Evil Queen with Marc Webb directing from a script by Greta Gerwig and Erin Cressida Wilson.
Oscar-nominated producer Marc Platt, who also worked on Disney’s live-action rendition of The Little Mermaid, is set to produce the film.
New direction: Disney is taking a ‘different approach’ with the characters originally referred to as the ‘seven dwarfs’ in its remake of its classic film Snow White in an effort to ‘avoid reinforcing stereotypes’