Rita Moreno will be returning to the world of musical-turned-movie West Side Story in Steven Spielberg‘s forthcoming 2020 adaptation. In a fun — but also logical — twist, Moreno will not reprise the role of Anita (for which she won the 1962 Best Supporting Actress Oscar) but will instead be playing the new character of Valentina.
During an event titled “An Evening with Rita Moreno” on Saturday night, the lauded actress opened up about about returning to the world of West Side Story with a new creative team at the helm and teased her role. It’s the first time we’ve heard Moreno talk about the role since it was announced she would be joining the cast. As such, her comments were pretty darn interesting.
According to Variety, Moreno, an executive producer on the new adaptation, spoke with the audience first about concerns over Spielberg and the new adaptation’s scribe, award-winning playwright Tony Kushner. She shared, “At first, it was interesting when I heard there were rumors that they were going to do the movie again, I was nervous, and I have a feeling a lot of people were. Then, when I heard that Tony Kushner, a brilliant playwright was going to do the script, I got worried because I thought, ‘Well, he’s so intense, I don’t know.'”
Moreno’s fears must have been assuaged at some point along the way because unless we hear otherwise, her performance is already in the can. Speaking of, Moreno also opened up about her new character, going so far as to make plain this wasn’t just some bit of stunt casting:
“Here’s another thing I can’t resist telling you. I’m going to brag one more time. It pleases me so because it is not a cameo. It’s a real part. It’s a real thing. Talk about full circle. Is that insane? Is that crazy?”
Moreno’s West Side Story casting was announced in November 2017. At the time, it was revealed her new character, Valentina, would be an expanded version of the character Doc, the owner of the shop where Tony (played by Ansel Elgort) works. At the time, Moreno was elated to return to the world of West Side Story, sharing in a statement,
“Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work. 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!”
In addition to Moreno and Elgort, the West Side Story cast includes Rachel Zegler as Maria, Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo, Corey Stoll as Lieutenant Schrank, and Brian d’Arcy James as Officer Krupke. The story is set in the mid-20th century and serves as an update on William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet, following star-crossed Upper West Side teens Tony (Elgort) and Anita (Zegler) and their doomed romance as their respective local gangs test their loyalties and threaten to tear them apart.
West Side Story arrives in theaters on December 18, 2020. For more on Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation, check out the director’s beautiful send-off letter to his cast and crew after filming wrapped.