Rita Moreno, two West Side Stories and possibly a second Oscar at 90

The Puerto Rican actress, already Oscar winner in 1962 for her role of Anita in the film by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, is strongly approached to receive again the supreme Hollywood award.

Spontaneously Rita Moreno confessed to her daughter, “qwhat a sacred life I have had!», When she saw for the first time, the documentary film which retraced her life. However, humble despite its volcanic character, it will have taken a year before accepting that film-loving directors come back to her unique journey in the seventh art.

Puerto Rican Superstar Revealed By West Side Story at the very beginning of the 1960s, today has more than 70 years of experience. And she is one of the 17 artists of the very closed club of “EGOT», Reserved for those who have won the grand slam of American artistic prizes: Emmy Award (television), Grammy Award (music), Oscar (cinema) and Tony Award (theater).

The only Latin American woman in this prestigious group, Rita Moreno had to fight against racism and sexual abuse in Hollywood long before the #MeToo movement, living in the process a tumultuous relationship with Marlon Brando. His busy career is at the heart of the documentary Rita Moreno, the story of the one who dared, available since January 3 in France in video on demand.

At 90, she’s back in the limelight with the remake of West Side Story. The first adaptation of the musical won him an Oscar in 1962 for his portrayal of Anita. And today she still has a good chance of receiving a second golden statuette with the rereading of this iconic film by Steven Spielberg. This time in the skin of Valentina, a character created to measure for her.
Ariana DeBose took over the role of Anita, and she too could be on the Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress next month. The two women are already competing for the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, where they were selected in the same category. The Oscars ceremony will take place on Sunday March 27.
Referring to a scene in which Valentina saves Anita from a sexual assault, Rita Moreno confides that “it was very difficult for her. It was surreal, very strange. Difficult and exciting. […] My brain was telling me: “No, no, it’s not Anita. Anita, it’s you! ””

From Puerto Rico to New York

The actress was born in Puerto Rico in December 1931. She emigrated with her mother to New York when she was only five years old, opening the doors of the show business as a teenager thanks to her talents of dancer. “Back then, there was no role model to identify with for girls like me“, Remembers Rita Moreno, who will therefore set her sights on Elizabeth Taylor.

At the age of thirteen, she made her Broadway debut and quickly went to the cinema, where she remained confined in stereotypical roles linked to her Hispanic origin. Even his Oscar for West Side Story, where her skin had been artificially browned with makeup, will not be enough to dispel this cliché. The artist therefore continued to develop her talents in theater and television, becoming over the years herself a model for current stars like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gloria Estefan and Eva Longoria.

A devouring passion for Marlon Brando

Many other stars of Latin American descent interviewed in the documentary share how inspiring Rita Moreno’s work has been. “I promised myself that I will be as honest as possible», She says with force in the documentary which is devoted to him.
However, she admits having had great difficulty in evoking in front of the camera her marriage – not so happy despite appearances – with the American cardiologist Leonard Gordon, who died in 2010: “It was the only time during the shoot that I asked them to cut it because I was going to cry.

The actress isn’t quite so emotional when she talks about her passionate but toxic relationship with legendary actor Marlon Brando, which spanned eight years. With a touch of nostalgia mixed with irony, Rita Moreno remembers: “Have you ever been so obsessed with someone that you felt like you couldn’t breathe without them. He was a kind of father that I couldn’t satisfy.
Rita Moreno now lives in California, enjoys cooking and says she makes a gazpacho “to die», A gastronomic ritual that risks being somewhat shaken up in the months to come by the film award season.

The cult scene of Rita Moreno and George Chakiris in the West Side Story from 1961

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Rita Moreno, two West Side Stories and possibly a second Oscar at 90