8 October 2021
Rita Moreno was “too young” to understand the “implications” of playing ethnic roles early in her career.
The ‘West Side Story’ actress – who won an Oscar and Golden Globe for her portrayal of Anita in the classic film – admitted even before her award-winning role, she was being typecast.
She told Closer US: “I was young and too inexperienced to miss the implications of [ethnic] roles like that. I just wanted to be a movie star.”
But for her star turn as Anita, the 89-year-old star admitted she was “very aware” of what she was representing with the role.
She added: “I would say playing Anita in ‘West Side Story’ [was the hardest] because I was very aware and sensitive that I was representing in a major way.
“It’s why I almost didn’t do the film, because there was a lyric at the very beginning of ‘America’ that was so detrimental to Puerto Rico.”
Rita also opened up about Hollywood at the time, noting that the stereotypical casing of minorities made for a “terrible time” in the film industry.
She said: “It was a really terrible time for ethnic people. I played anybody with dark skin even though I have fair skin. I refused to speak with an accent again unless it was a really good part.”
The actress revealed that despite her success after ‘West Side Story’, she found herself out of work and endured what she called the “most depressing” time of her life.
She explained: “After the Oscars – it wasn’t just the Oscars, I also won a Golden Globe – I couldn’t get a job.
“The very few that were offered to me were lesser gang movies and some part as a coffee pourer for Hispanic family. It was one of the most depressing times of my life.”
Rita – who can count herself as part of the EGOT club as the winner of an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony -is set to star in the upcoming remake of ‘West Side Story’, which is directed by Steven Spielberg and due for release just before Christmas.
This time, Rita will play the new role of Valentina and couldn’t be more excited.
She gushed: “You are in for one of the greatest experiences of all time. This is a great film. It was an inspired story. It was probably one of the most thrilling times of my life.”