Rita Moreno Returns to ‘West Side Story’ Playing New Character for Steven Spielberg

     November 27, 2018

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It was 57 years ago that Rita Moreno won an Oscar for her turn as Anita in the 1961 classic West Side Story, and now the EGOT winner has signed on to co-star in and executive produce Steven Spielberg‘s new film adaptation of the seminal Broadway musical.

Ansel Elgort will star as Tony, while Moreno will play Valentina, a reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works. It’s a clever way to include Moreno, who caught her big break with 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain and has since become one of only 15 people to achieve EGOT status, having won two Emmys, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner has written the adaptation of the 1957 musical, originally written by Arthur Laurents with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and concept, direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins. Spielberg, Kevin McCollum and Kristie Macosko Krieger will produce the film musical, which will be released by 20th Century Fox. Production is expected to start in the summer of 2019.

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Image via Austin Hargrave

“Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work,” says Moreno. “And to be asked by Steven Spielberg to participate is simply thrilling! Then to work together with the brilliant playwright, Tony Kushner – what a glorious stew! I am tingling!”

“From our earliest discussions, we wanted to include Rita Moreno in our production,” said Spielberg, who is coming off of The Post and Ready Player One. “Her Anita is one of the greatest musical performances ever filmed, and a personal favorite of mine. We created an original role for her, and we feel beyond fortunate that Rita will bring her extraordinary gifts as an actress, as well as her deep understanding of West Side Story to this production as an executive producer.”

Moreno currently stars in Netflix’s critically-acclaimed Latino remake of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom, One Day at a Time, and she has recently guest-starred on TV series such as Getting On, Jane The Virgin and Grace and Frankie. Moreno also starred in 1971’s Carnal Knowledge, as well as on HBO’s Oz. She also enjoyed a long-running stint on the children’s television program The Electric Company and made an Emmy-winning appearance on The Muppet Show. She has been awarded a Kennedy Center Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as the Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.

Earlier this month, Moreno was reported to have been in discussions to join another highly-anticipated movie musical — WB’s In the Heights — but it turns out those reports were premature, and she had long been planning to work with Spielberg on West Side Story. She’s represented by Innovative Artists, and you can see her below as a dance instructor in one of my favorite coming-of-age films, Angus.

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Image via New Line Cinema

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Image via Disney

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