Earlier this year director Steven Spielberg declared plans to adapt the 1961 Oscar-winning musical West Side Story. Despite criticism from several sources – including this amazing parody – about the musical’s history of racism, Spielberg has plans to rectify several of the issues that plagued the original film. For starters, he’s embarked on a nationwide casting call to look for actual Latinos to fill the lead roles.
And, on top of that, an actual queen is going to be singing along with Spielberg. Rita Moreno, who won an Academy Award for her role as Anita in the 1961 version, will be playing a “reconceived” character in Spielberg’s vision. The EGOT-winning actress will play Valentina, the owner of the store where Tony, the white boy at the center of the film, works. The role was originally written in the film (and stage play) for a man. Moreno will also be receiving an executive producer credit on the film. When asked about starring in the movie, Moreno told Deadline Hollywood: “I am tingling.”
In case you need a refresher on West Side Story, Spielberg’s film – along with the Leonard Bernstein musical it’s based on – is a reconfigured take on Romeo and Juliet, wherein Tony falls in love with Maria, the Puerto Rican sister of a rival gang.
It can’t be stressed enough that Rita Moreno needed to be a part of this. Not only is she one of the few remaining cast members of the original feature – including George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn – but playing Anita allowed her to break the color barrier, becoming the first Latina to win an Academy Award for acting. Spielberg better have her sing, that’s all I’ll say.
West Side Story starts filming summer 2019.