'West Side Story' Star Rita Moreno Asked Steven Spielberg For Rewrites – And She Got Them [TCA 2020]

Rita Moreno was on a Television Critics Association panel for One Day at a Time. Netflix cancelled the sitcom, but Pop brought it back for a fourth season. Moreno also appears in Steven Spielberg's remake of West Side Story, which is noteworthy becuase Moreno won an Oscar for her role in Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins' original 1961 adaptation of the musical.Moreno hung around after the One Day at a Time panel to talk to journalists more about West Side Story. Ariana DeBose now plays Moreno's original role of Anita, but they created the new character of Valentina for Moreno.

Rita Moreno wasn’t sold on the first draft of West Side Story

As one of the stars of the original film, Moreno was concerned about a remake, even if it was Steven Spielberg."I was concerned when I heard it was going to be done again," Moreno said. "Mind you, Steven Spielbeg has been a favorite of mine for years. I mean, look at the variety of the work he does which is almost bizarre. I was worried so when he called me, my agent told me, 'Sgeven Spielberg wants to call you,' I knew what it was about. I just knew. He asked me if I would be interested and I said, 'I really need to read the script.'"Lincoln, Munich and Angels in America writer Tony Kusher wrote Spielberg's adaptation of the musical. Moreno had questions about his first draft, and they answered them."I read the script and I had questions," Moreno said. "I called [Spielberg] and we talked some more and he said, 'There will be many, many, many rewrites.' Tony Kushner's also famous for that anyway. So there were many, many for the best. The rewrites, his own rewrites, rewrites of his writing really in some instances spectacular. He has rethought some certain things that will I think delight people."It's reassuring to hear how open-minded Spielberg and Kushner were. A completely faithful remake of West Side Story would raise questions today, It sounds like they're being sensitive, and listening to Latinx collaborators. Moreno added that Kushner did a lot of research on Puerto Rican history to make the rivalry between the Sharks and Jets authentic."He did such a huge, huge research job that he became fascinated by the history of this tiny island," Moreno said. "He wrote what may be a series with the name of my character, Valentina, on it. He said the history of this island is amazing. It's just astonishing."

Spielberg made Rita Moreno an Executive Producer

Having Rita Moreno in the remake shows reverence to her film. It also sort of suggests she implicitly endorses Spielberg's film. Spielberg also gave her Executive Producer credit so she could weigh in whenever she felt it necessary."I was worried," Moreno said. "I was worried the same reason that some people are still worried because they're thinking, 'You're going to take a good thing and mess with this?' It took a while for me to be convinced, because I feel that if I'm in it, and now I get executive producer credit. Yeah, he offered that. Not too shabby. I was on set whenever I wanted to be. I still haven't seen anything because I haven't had the time really."In other cases, an EP credit might just be a way to shut someone up and make them happy. Listening to the way Moreno spoke her mind, it's clear she was an active producer, and that's what Spielberg wanted.

Spielberg is respecting Robert Wise’s directing

If any director has license to do whatever he wants, it's Steven Spielberg. However, Moreno said Spielberg is rather reverent to the original's co-director, Robert Wise."Who Steven admired immensely," Moreno said. "He asked me a lot of questions. He asked me lots of questions. He was enthralled that he had the source, the horse's mouth. I said, 'What do you think I bring to this as a producer?' He said, 'You bring you. You bring your experience. 'You bring Bob Wise back to me' because he admired Robert Wise immensely. He said, 'You bring everything that I would ever, ever want.'"

Rita Moreno confirms Steven Spielberg is still a kid

The greatest gift of Steven Spielberg movies is the childlike wonder with which he imbues them. West Side Story is a bit more mature, a tragic Romeo and Juliet love story, but Moreno said he's still a kid behind the scenes."Gosh, Steven prances around the set like a kid," Moreno said. "He is so happy to be there. That's not the kind of thing you really feel on a set with directors. They're doing their job. They may love it but you don't see a kid with a cigar that he doesn't ever smoke. He'll say to you, 'Look at this. Look at this shot. What do you think?' It's just extraordinary, extraordinary."