“West Side Story” breakout star Rachel Zegler revealed in an Instagram post on Sunday that she doesn’t have a ticket to attend the 94th Academy Awards, sparking a wave of outrage on social media from fans.
“Idk y’all, I have tried it all, but it doesn’t seem to be happening,” Zegler wrote in a comment to a user on Instagram. “I will root for ‘West Side Story’ from my couch and be proud of the work we so tirelessly did three years ago. I hope some last minute miracle occurs and I can celebrate our film in person, but hey, that’s how it goes sometimes, I guess. Thanks for all the shock and outrage – I’m disappointed too. But that’s okay. So proud of our movie.”
Zegler made her debut film performance as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the stage musical. Her portrayal kicked off the awards season by winning best actress at the National Board of Review, making her only the second Latina to ever win the prize (behind Fernanda Montenegro in “Central Station,” 1998) and the youngest. She also won the Golden Globe for lead actress in a comedy or musical, along with the film triumphing in best comedy or musical.
The “miracle” she’s requesting is in the hands of The Walt Disney Company themselves, which owns 20th Century Studios, the distributor behind “West Side Story.”
In February, the Academy announced a reduction in seating capacity for the Dolby Theatre, which can typically hold 3,300 individuals. Due to remaining concerns regarding COVID-19, and in an effort to keep attendees safe, they are only inviting around 2,500. As a result, the Academy did not hold its annual lottery for the nearly 10,000 person membership to attend. The main orchestra level of the Dolby normally seats about 1,460, which includes the parterre. That area will be reduced to around 600, with the main level holding around 212 attendees. There are approximately 216 individual nominees for this year’s Oscars, and all nominees, with their guests, presenters and performers, will be seated on the main level. All other attendees will sit in the mezzanine.
Traditionally, movie studios are given an undefined allotment of tickets to the Oscars. So the question becomes why didn’t someone at Disney ensure the leading lady of its best picture-nominated film would be in attendance?
Each nominated individual receives a plus one to the ceremony, for each category in which they are nominated. For example, triple-nominee Paul Thomas Anderson for “Licorice Pizza” (best picture, director and original screenplay) gets a guest for each of the categories he’s nominated in — in this case, three.
It would be up to the team at 20th Century Studios, which is owned by Disney (which also owns ABC, the broadcaster for the Oscars) to coordinate Zegler’s attendance through any of its nominees, spread across seven categories. Many of these additional plus ones are often used as a method to bring some of the top executives to the Oscars, which is essentially an exercise in massaging egos.
“West Side Story” is the frontrunner in the best supporting actress race for Ariana DeBose, which would make her the second Latina to ever win an acting Oscar. Her Latina co-star should not be excluded from the celebration, as she is one of the key factors for the movie’s success.
The Academy has announced a slew of presenters for this year’s telecast which includes Kevin Costner, Lady Gaga, Youn Yuh-jung, Rosie Perez, Chris Rock, Zoë Kravitz, Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong’o, John Travolta, Mila Kunis, Naomi Scott and Wesley Snipes, with more to come. It’s an eclectic and diverse mix of presenters that run the gamut from former winners to some of the biggest and most legendary names in Hollywood. One could argue that Zegler should be among the names given her breakout year, especially with two big upcoming projects in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and the live-action version of Disney’s “Snow White.”
Will Disney do the right thing?
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