Rita Moreno has heaped praise on Steven Spielberg for keeping the essence of the original West Side Story movie musical in his revamp.
The movie mogul invited Moreno, who played feisty Anita in the 1961 film, to consider a role in his movie and the chance to consult on the project, and she admits the offer put her at ease after initially worrying the new version would be dreadful.
“I was worried because you’re gonna take a good thing and mess with this,” she admits. “It took a while for me to be convinced… Now I get an executive producer credit, so not too shabby. I was on set whenever I wanted to be. Steven asked me a lot of questions. He was enthralled that he had the source. He wanted my experience because I brought (director) Robert Wise back to him. He admired Robert Wise immensely.
“Steven invited every member of that cast to come visit the set. I still keep in touch with (former co-star) George Chakiris, who is my daughter’s godfather.”
And Rita, who picked up an Oscar for her role in the original West Side Story, is very impressed with Spielberg’s new heroine, Rachel Zegler, who takes on the part of Maria in the new version, first played by Natalie Wood.
“Maria in this (version) does sing,” Moreno explains, revealing Wood’s singing voice was dubbed by Marnie Nixon in the original.