She took home the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance as Anita in the 1961 film West Side Story. Now it looks like Rita Moreno is going to find herself right back in the middle of the turf war between the Jets and the Sharks as director Steven Spielberg starts pulling together his new remake of the classic movie that took home a total of 10 Oscars.
According to Deadline, Rita, 86, will be playing the part of Valentina, described as a “reconceived and expanded” take on the owner of the corner store in which one of the lead characters, Tony, works. The original is a musical take on Romeo and Juliet that tells the love story between Natalie Wood’s Maria (sister of Sharks leader Bernardo) and Richard Beymer’s Tony (co-founder of the Jets) and the challenges they face from their “worlds” that keep them apart from each other.
Steven Spielberg tells the site, “From our earliest discussions, we wanted to include Rita Moreno in our production. 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.”
For her part, Rita is pretty stunned by all this. “Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work,” she says. “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.”
Humorously, back in October, Rita was actually asked by Entertainment Weekly if she had any interest in appearing in the Spielberg remake. Her response was, “That would be strange. I think it would be distracting. No, no, no, I don’t belong in there in any capacity.” She did, however, express, “I’m anxious to see what he’s going to do with it. Obviously, some of the language has to be updated. But it had to be updated when the movie came out. We were saying things like, ‘I’m hep,’ and it pained all of us because even then that was kind of out of date. But an old guy wrote it.”