October 25, 2021

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Rila Moreno is Spielberg’s West Side Story and why she won’t retire

4 min read

For the 2021 Power of Women issue, Diversity Talked to several women in the entertainment industry who are using their voices for the right reasons. For more, click here.

Rita Moreno may be 90 years old in December, but the actor fears the thought of being typecast as a woman at a certain age.

“Why do I have to play the role of a grandmother because of my age? Can I be a lawyer? A scientist? So far, the answer is … not too much, “he said indifferently.” Hollywood is suffering deeply from aging. “

Rita Moreno is the power of women's diversity

Moreno has built a career – a memorable stage and screen character of seven decades – “Singin in the Rain”, “The Electric Company,” “The Ritz” and “One Day at a Time” – without breaking expectations. In 1961, she was the first to play Anita in “West Side Story,” and was still the only Hispanic woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. After his Oscars, Moreno was one of the few Emmy, Grammy and Tony award winners, a special recognition known as an Igot. And these are just the most popular prizes. He has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Kennedy Center Honor and a Peabody Award and is a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “So far, everything except Pulitzer and Nobel,” he noted. “But I’m working on it!”

Really?

“I’m kidding, Jesus,” he told his interviewer. “You have a sense of humor, don’t you?”

On the phone with Moreno, flying freely with his Pithi Jabs and the four-character Explosives, you never know he’s going to be a nongensian. “Oh, I have a ribbon face,” he says with a smile. “It’s not a question of liking the curse,” he explains. “It just comes out. I don’t say fucking because it makes me laugh. Many times I say ‘Oh dear’ but no one pays attention.

Moreno, who was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York as a child, was effective in getting people’s attention. Long before she used her platform to advocate for women and minorities, hot-buttons on social media became the mainstay of social and political issues. Most notably, he got a front-row seat in Washington’s historic March, where he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech while throwing a stone from Martin Luther King Jr.

“I remember sitting next to my friend James Garner, who was ulcerating Pepto Bismal. He was afraid that participating would end his career,” he recalls. “But I was scared too.”

It didn’t have a negative impact on his work, at least, which he wasn’t aware of. “If people want to criticize us, they don’t want to express themselves,” he said before taking a break. “I’m sure if that happens now, you’ll hear a very bad way from a good part of the United States.”

Moreno believes that people on public platforms have a responsibility to talk about important issues: “If they have an opinion, I think it’s important for the rest of America to hear about it,” he said. “It’s amazing when you talk to someone whose work you respect. I don’t know if it will change anything, but what it does is strengthen the fight for good and justice. ”

Today, his philanthropic efforts continue: he is using his reputation as a means of raising awareness and funding for the Rotacare Bay Area, and especially for the Richmond Rotacare Clinic, which provides emergency care to the insured. In addition, Moreno’s personal financial commitment has written off the cost of caring for many.

Moreno has spent much of the epidemic in Northern California, getting rid of the “bad” of his home and selling even better things at some local consignment stores. “The place where I go to sell my very beautiful things Loves I, “he says.” I’ve made a lot of money. I use it to buy more bad things.

He said there are advantages to staying at home, but Moreno is keen to resume normal life and misses a glimpse of award shows, galas and art gatherings. He will return to the screen for a remake of Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story”, which opens in theaters on December 10, the day before his 90th birthday. In the new version, he has a small role and works as an executive producer.

Because the original film was a classic, Moreno was hesitant to reconsider the unfortunate animosity between sharks and jets. But he says Spielberg’s new adoption has changed his mind. “The range of Steven’s talent is huge,” he says.

As an executive producer, Moreno Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner worked with the acclaimed author behind “Angels in America” ​​to correct any inaccuracies or insensitivity in the 1961 film. Moreno is careful not to go into too much detail, though he did push about a remake version of the scene that helped establish his stardom.

“That’s the way they did‘ America ’,” he says. “It’s completely different from the roof‘ America ’that we did, and trust me, it’s a great thing. Spielberg and [choreographer] Justin [Peck] Decided that they would not compete with anything that is so iconic. ”

For his Oscar-winning role, Moreno is still pinching himself. “It simply came to our notice then. It’s not something you’re saying to yourself: ‘Oh, this is going to get me an Oscar.’ Well, at least I didn’t go down without explaining myself first.

Although Moreno’s career has endured ups and downs, his passion has never diminished. “I love what I do,” she says. The only way to retire is if I can’t walk. And yet, there is always a wheelchair – or roller skate.


Makeup: Glenn Allen; Hair: Anna Maria Orzano

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