Rita Moreno recalls conversation with Steven Spielberg over ‘horrific’ Spanish in ‘West Side Story’ adaptation

When it came to Rita Moreno’s return to “West Side Story,” she wasn’t going to settle for anything less.

The 87-year-old actress, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Anita in the 1961 musical, is set to return to the next big-screen adaptation of the film that fellow Oscar winner Steven Spielberg is directing. Moreno will also serve as an executive producer.


And she’s taking that role very seriously.

“I’ve only read a very, very rough [version] of the script,” Moreno revealed in a SiriusXM interview, as reported by Vanity Fair Tuesday. “And it’s very rough, meaning tons of stuff is gonna be changed. For instance, [writer] Tony [Kushner] did the Spanish parts with his Spanish dictionary, which was horrific.”

Moreno admitted her first call with Spielberg, 72, was challenging because she wasn’t sure how to bring up the issue.

“I didn’t know how to say that to Steven,” said Moreno. “Finally, in our conversation on the phone… I said, ‘Listen, Steven, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the Spanish in the script is not terrific.”

According to Moreno, Spielberg immediately assured her not to stress over the Spanish woe.


“He said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, that’s Tony Kushner using a Spanish dictionary,’” she recalled. “I was very nervous that Steven would think that that was the correct thing.”

Vanity Fair reported Moreno will play a new iteration of the character Doc, the drugstore owner who hires Tony (played by Ansel Elgort).

“Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work,” Moreno said in a statement at the time of the casting announcement. “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!”

“West Side Story” told the tale of two youngsters from rival New York City gangs who fall in love. Their whirlwind romance ultimately ends in tragedy. It famously starred Natalie Wood as leading lady, Maria.

Back in 2016, Moreno told Fox News that even though she won an Oscar for the role of Anita, it wasn’t the breakthrough she was hoping to achieve as an actress.


“It broke my heart,” she admitted at the time. “I didn’t do another film after that for seven years. Not because I wasn’t offered some, but because I was offered the same roles on a much lower scale. You know, gang movies and stuff like that. No, no, no. That’s it. I’m not doing something like that again anymore, or you know, the stereotypical lady with the thick accent.”

“Acting in Hollywood, even with the awards and accolades, is a very tough profession,” she continued. “Especially for women of color. We, the Hispanic community, now have a pretty good presence on television, but that doesn’t give us the roles. And I am not for one second diminishing the importance of having a presence. But now it’s time for us to get the roles, the writers and the directors. And that’s going to take longer.”

Moreno also shared she still stays in touch with her “West Side Story” co-star George Chakiris, who played her on-screen boyfriend Bernardo.

“He’s one of my dearest friends!” she gushed. “He’s my daughter’s godfather. I have a picture of George holding this beautiful baby girl. He’s still so damn handsome, it’s disgusting. He still goes to ballet class, that son of a b----. I can’t do that! My knees are too shot. But we do have good genes, that’s for sure.”