The original “West Side Story” film in 1961 earned Rita Moreno an Oscar, and now she has signed on for the remake.
The 86-year-old actress is reportedly set to play Valentina, “a reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store” in the eagerly awaited Steven Spielberg version.
Moreno played Anita, the best friend of main character Maria, in the original.
The adaptation of the hit Broadway musical revolves around the Romeo-and-Juliet-type love story between Tony, a former member of the Jets gang, and Maria, the younger sister of the leader of its rival gang, the Sharks.
Casting is underway, with Ansel Elgort tapped to play Tony.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work,” Moreno said Tuesday in a statement. “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!”
Spielberg sounded equally enthusiastic about working with Moreno, whose performance of the song, “America,” in the original is among the film’s signature moments.
“From our earliest discussions, we wanted to include Rita Moreno in our production,” the director said.
“Her Anita is one of the greatest musical performances ever filmed, and a personal favorite of mine,” Spielberg said. “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.”
“West Side Story” is set to begin filming in the summer.