Rachel Zegler has revealed for the first time how much it hurt when her press tour for “West Side Story” was overshadowed by previous sexual abuse allegations against co-star Ansel Elgort.
“It was a real gut punch, honestly,” Zegler, 20, told Elle magazine of constantly being asked about the Elgort controversy. “I reverted back to this brain space I was in [back in] June of 2020, when the accusation surfaced. We were in the middle of the first wave of lockdown, and there was nothing to do but doomscroll.”
On June 19, 2020, Elgort, 28, was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in 2014. Elgort responded to the allegations the next day. Though he did not deny having a physical relationship with the accuser, who identified herself as Gabby, he claimed it was “legal and entirely consensual.”
However, the claims surfaced at the height of the pandemic — and before the much-hyped movie musical was released. The Steven Spielberg remake of the classic musical hit theaters in December 2021 after months of delays.
Elgort was often grouped with his castmates during interviews, possibly in an attempt to shift the spotlight away from him and his alleged abuse, Elle reported in the lengthy Zegler profile featured in their May issue.
Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler) share a dance at their first meeting in “West Side Story.”©20th Century StudiosThe singer-actress continued, “Those days were some of the worst mental health days I’ve ever had. I was sitting there having just turned 19, on the precipice of what was promised to be the biggest moment in my life, and was being held accountable [by the public] for accusations that not only had nothing to do with me but were made about a situation that was said to have occurred [five] years prior to when I had met and worked with this person. With no thought to the fact that I was also 17 when I met this person, 17 when I worked with them, 17 and 18 when I had to do love scenes.”
Zegler, soon to be seen in a live-action “Snow White” adaptation, also noted that she felt uncomfortable about the situation behind he scenes. “[There is] inherent discomfort that comes with that realization that there are tons of people who think that you have to answer for the actions of an adult male who can speak for himself,” she said.
“It was a real gut punch, honestly,” the “Snow White” actress noted about her costar’s alleged bad behavior.Getty Images for SiriusXM“It is so wildly disappointing at every turn, no matter how you slice it,” Zegler said. “No matter how many times I’ve tried to justify people’s concern when it comes to me in my brain, but then realizing that it comes from a place of me having to answer for that, and not them actually caring about whether or not I was okay, was really hurtful.”
Zegler then explained how conversations surrounding being a woman in Hollywood where they “constantly find [themselves] in close encounters with men in power” are important to discuss.
She concluded, “In the grand scheme of things with this woman who has come forward with these allegations, I cannot imagine what she had to go through. If I’m sitting here thinking that those days were traumatizing for me, I don’t pretend to know. I could never know. I really don’t have anything to do with this conversation, and I’m looking forward to moving past it.”
Mike Faist, David Alvarez, Ariana DeBose, Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort attend the Los Angeles premiere of West Side Story, held at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California on December 07, 2021. Getty Images for 20th Century StudiosThe “Fault in Our Stars” actor has since denied the accusations against him and said in a statement in 2020 that he “would never assault anyone.”
“As I look back at my attitude, I am disgusted and deeply ashamed of the way I acted. I am truly sorry. I know I must continue to reflect, learn, and work to grow in empath,” he said at the time.
Zegler faintly addressed Elgort’s alleged behavior in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter in January.
“We made a movie two and a half years ago, and a lot has gone on in the world since then. A lot has changed very publicly, and privately as well. There’s been a lot of awakening,” she said at the time. “You just hope that the people involved are OK, that they are asked in a respectful manner and that they are given the opportunity to answer for themselves.”