Rachel Zegler, one of the lead actors of Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, will attend the Oscars this year as a presenter. The announcement comes after the Academy was criticised for not inviting Zegler as a guest, despite the film’s multiple nominations, including for Best Picture.
Zegler’s name appeared in the sixth slate of presenters that the Academy announced on Wednesday. She will be one of the card-openers alongside tennis players Serena and Venus Williams, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Momoa, and Jacob Elordi, among others.
Responding to the announcement on Twitter, Zegler thanked the Academy and wrote, “I’m so excited to open that shiny envelope. I could not be more grateful to everyone who helped make this possible. Seriously.”
Recently, netizens had expressed outrage over the actor not being invited though she was the star of a film with several nominations. The row had started after Zegler’s response to a question on an Instagram post had revealed that she was not invited to the premier awards event. “I don’t know y’all, I have tried it all but it doesn’t seem to be happening,” she had added.
A user had replied, “Are you joking? No one from Parasite received an acting nomination in 2020, yet the entire cast was invited. She’s the co-lead of a movie up for multiple awards, including Best Picture.”
It is worth noting here that the invitation of non-nominees like Zegler is left to the discretion of the studios, which are provided with bulk invites in proportion to the number of nominations their films have bagged. The distribution of tickets by the Academy takes place on priority basis, with the nominees receiving the first invites – a pair of tickets for every nomination they receive. These are followed by the presenters, performers, others associated with the Academy and the show’s broadcast network ABC, the sponsors, the production team, and media.
The remaining tickets are handed out to studios, in proportion to their nominations, and they then decide who gets to attend the Oscars ceremony. In Zegler’s case, the call would have thus rested with Disney.
The backlash over Zegler’s exclusion came even as the Academy is still facing criticism for its decision to leave out eight categories from the main event on Sunday. That choice was made to address Oscars’ steady decline in viewership since 2014, but it has been called out for being disrespectful of the technical fields.
The outrage further intensified after the Academy announced its fifth slate of presenters on Monday, with some pointing out that the choice to include the likes of DJ Khaled and athlete Shaun White, while Zegler was not invited, seemed absurd.
However, following all the backlash, the Academy has now included her as a presenter.
Zegler is currently shooting for Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of Snow White.
In her Twitter post, she also thanked Disney and the film’s producers for adjusting the film’s schedule in order to accommodate the Oscars event, to be held on Sunday in Los Angeles. “It’s not lost on me that being able to shoot a film the scale of Snow White during COVID is not easy, and any adjustment to our schedule is no small sacrifice,” she added.