If you thought that the years had mellowed the fiery spark of screen legend Rita Moreno, you’d be wrong. IN an interview at TheWrap’s Sundance Studio presented by NFP and National Geographic, the spry 89-year-old let loose on Hollywood racism — particularly against the Latinx community — while promoting her new documentary, “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.”
Asked if she viewed the lack of opportunity for Latino actors she experienced as a young actress differently today, Moreno minced no words. “I’m pained to say it’s still the same problem, the same damn problem,” she said.
“It’s amazing. So far we are the community that still doesn’t have their wonderful big movies. Where is our ‘Moonlight’?” she asked, referencing Barry Jenkins’ 2016 indie about a young Black man that became a surprise Oscar Best Picture winner. “Where is any number of movies that the black community has? Why is this not happening for us? It’s disgraceful. It’s so discouraging. I don’t know what the hell is going on.”
Moreno, an Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress for playing Anita in 1961’s “West Side Story” as well as a rare EGOT winner for additional work on TV, theater and music, was joined by director Mariem Perez Riera, and producers Brent Miller and Ilia Velez.
The film covers such painful subjects from Moreno’s past, including a sexual assault by her agent, and the heartbreak of her relationship with Marlon Brando. Candor on such topics was important to Moreno for this project. “It seems to me if you’re going to do something like this, I made a promise that to the best of my ability I’d be as truthful as I could be,” she said. “And I think I did pretty good.”
Miller said the project came about because he and Moreno worked on the Netflix/Pop TV reboot of “One Day at a Time,” produced by his partner Norman Lear.
“When I worked with Rita I was shocked to learn that no one had done her story before,” Miller said. “When I learned of not just the Rita from ‘West Side Story,’ but the Rita with this expansive career, I approached her and said Would you trust me to tell your story?”
The film will air on PBS’ “American Masters” series later this year.
Watch the interview above.