Rita Moreno is celebrating her 90th birthday. The Hollywood legend is also celebrating the premiere of her new film “West Side Story,” which was met with rave reviews and premiered this Friday, December 10th.
Moreno played Anita in the original version of “West Side Story,” released in 1961. When Steven Spielberg offered her a role in his version of the film, she thought it would be a cameo, which she wasn’t interested in. “I remember saying to Steven, ‘Look, if you’re offering a cameo, I have to say no, right off the bat.‘ Playing a cameo when you’ve been a lead is just a distraction. All you‘re doing is distracting people. ’Oh, look who‘s there?’” she said to Parade magazine. Moreno now plays Valentina, a new character written specifically for her. She is also an executive producer, helping maintain the film more culturally sensitive than its 1961 predecessor.
As she did press for the film, Moreno spoke about Ariana DeBose, the actress who is playing this generation’s Anita. In 1961, Moreno was awarded an Academy Award for her performance, making her the first Hispanic woman to win that recognition. “She is a beautiful Anita in the movie,” Moreno said in an interview with Lester Holt. “It was so bizarre because suddenly I was playing another role and she was playing Anita.”
Happy 90th birthday to Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner Rita Moreno. The legendary performer is the first, and still only, Latina to EGOT and she achieved them all by age 45. pic.twitter.com/FviXvjASyk— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch) December 12, 2021
Moreno talked to Deadline about her birthday and the things she was grateful for. “It doesn’t feel any different. On the face of it, nothing has changed,” Moreno said. “I’m older and deeply grateful for still being here. And inevitably, now there is concern about what’s next after West Side Story. And anyone who tells you otherwise is a damn liar.”
Her birthday was celebrated by fans, followers, and actors with whom she’s worked over the course of her career.
“West Side Story” is now in theaters and is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in the upper west side of New York in the mid ‘50s, where two rival gangs battle for control of the turf.