It took Rita Moreno a year to approve a documentary about her career. When she finally saw it for the first time, she said to her daughter: “What a life I was!”
She has won seven Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscars in the Puerto Rican superstar’s show business for seven decades – a rare “EGOT” achievement achieved by only 16 artists.
Moreno is the only Latin American to have a troubled love affair with Marlon Brando, who overcame racism and sexual violence in Hollywood long before #MeToo.
Now happy mom and grandma, she’s the subject “Rita Moreno: A girl who decided to go for itOn Netflix, one finds the ups and downs of a life often seen to embody the “American dream.”
Thanks to a remake of the 1962 Oscar-winning film Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, she’s back on the big screen in her 90s – and now she’s got another one.
Anita, who was voted Best Supporting Actress decades ago, is stepping into her new role as Moreno Valentina, while her former character is played by young Broadway star Ariana Debose.
“It was very difficult for me,” Moreno told AFP, describing a scene in which Valentina saves Anita from sexual assault.
“I have to tell you, it was very real, it’s weird, it’s difficult, it’s exciting.
“My brain was saying to me ‘No, no, it’s not Anita, you are Anita!’ I had to say to my brain, ‘No, I’m not Anita anymore.’
‘No role models’
Moreno was born in 1931 in Puerto Rico. When she was five, she moved to New York with her mother, where her dancing opened the door to the entertainment industry.
“Girls like me at the time didn’t have role models,” she said, choosing Elizabeth Taylor, Moreno recalled.
She made her Broadway debut at the age of 13 and soon found herself in movies.
On the big screen, she got endless “racist” roles. Not even her Oscar would end the typecasting for the movie “West Side Story” which painted her skin dark.
But she expanded her career in drama and television, becoming a role model for today’s Latinos Lynn-Manuel Miranda, Gloria Estefan and Eva Longoria.
She and others talk about Moreno’s inspiring work in the new documentary, which evokes laughter, admiration and tears.
“I promised myself I would be as honest as I could be,” Moreno said.
Despite being on screen for decades, she admitted that it was difficult to unravel the rift behind her marriage to the late US cardiologist Leonard Gordon in 2010.
“It was the first and only time on the set that I had to ask them to cut because I was going to cry.”
Moreno is more visceral when it comes to negotiating with Brando, who has been in love with them for eight years.
“Has anyone ever suffocated you? Do you think you can not breathe without them? That’s how Marlon felt about himself,” she jokes.
“He was a father I could not please,” Moreno adds.
These days, Moreno lives in California, enjoying cooking and making a gazpacho to “die”.
But the next few months are unlikely to be quiet, as there is growing hope that Moreno will win a second Oscar for his new “West Side Story.”
That might lead her against her young co-star DeBos.
“Ariana will be shocked at what I’m nominated for, because I think she’s oh, this is Rita Moreno,” she told AFP, flying between Spanish and English.
“No, no, no, you played Anita, not me, you deserve it.” … she was amazing, she was divine. ”
Both have won co-star recognition from the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, and the Oscars are yet to come.
“I called Steven Spielberg and asked, ‘What should I do? Should I show you these things?’ Moreno recalled, worrying that her presence would make Debos “confused.”
“He said: ‘Of course, you have to show up to show that everyone in the cast is friendly … you’re chosen, you have to be there’.”