Can you imagine remaking “West Side Story” without Rita Moreno?
The EGOT winner is set to return to the beloved musical, decades after her star turn in the original 1961 movie, for a different role in Steven Spielberg’s highly-anticipated remake.
Moreno, who took home an Oscar for her performance as Anita, will play Valentina in the new film, a revamped version of the soda shop owner Doc. She’ll also executive produce the project alongside Spielberg, Kevin McCollum and Kristie Macosko Krieger.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work,” Moreno said in a statement to Deadline. “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!”
The “One Day At A Time” star previously said it would be “distracting” for her to appear in the film, but apparently, she’s changed her tune.
Spielberg, however, said it was always his intention to bring Moreno aboard for the film, which is set to begin filming in the summer of 2019.
“Her Anita is one of the greatest musical performances ever filmed, and a personal favorite of mine,” the director added. “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.”
Apart from 86-year-old film icon, “Baby Driver” star Ansel Elgort is the only other actor attached to the project so far. Elgort will star as Tony, one half of the leading romantic duo pulled apart by a gang rivalry in 1950s New York City.
Spielberg has expressed a desire to round out the cast with Spanish-speaking Latino actors as the film’s Puerto Rican leads, a notable difference from the original.
Moreno has been critical of the film’s legacy, given the “extremely dark” makeup used on the set and how her accent “didn’t make any sense at all.”