“What a life!”: Rita Moreno on her way to a new Oscar at 90?

(AFP) – Rita Moreno hesitated for almost a year before accepting a documentary retracing her career. When she saw this movie for the first time, she shouted to her daughter: “What a hell of a life I have had!”

The Puerto Rican superstar, revealed by “West Side Story” in the early 1960s, has more than 70 years of business. And she is one of the 17 artists of the very closed club of “EGOT”, reserved for those who have achieved the grand slam of American artistic prizes: Emmy Award (television), Grammy Award (music), Oscar (cinema) and Tony Award (theater ).

The only Latin American woman in this prestigious group, Rita Moreno had to fight against racism and sexual abuse in Hollywood long before the #MeToo movement, living in the process a tumultuous relationship with Marlon Brando.

Her busy career is at the heart of the documentary “Rita Moreno, the story of the woman who dared”, available since January 3 in France on video on demand.

At 90, she is once again in the limelight with the remake of “West Side Story”. The original film won her an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita. She has a good chance of running for a second golden statuette soon with the rereading of this iconic film by Steven Spielberg, thanks to the role of Valentina created to measure for her.

Ariana DeBose is reprising the role of Anita, and who could also be on the list of nominations for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress next month.

The two women are already competing for the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, where they were selected in the same category.

Referring to a scene in which Valentina saves Anita from a sexual assault, Rita Moreno tells AFP that “it was very difficult for (her)”.

“It was surreal, very strange. Difficult and exciting”. “My brain was telling me + no, no, it’s not Anita. Anita, it’s you! +”

– “No model” –

The actress was born in Puerto Rico in December 1931. She emigrated with her mother to New York when she was only five years old, opening the doors of the show business as a teenager thanks to her talents of dancer.

“At the time, there was no model to identify with for girls like me,” recalls Rita Moreno, who will therefore set her sights on Elizabeth Taylor.

At the age of thirteen, she made her Broadway debut and quickly went to the movies, where she remained confined in stereotypical roles linked to her Hispanic origin. Even her Oscar for “West Side Story”, where her skin had been artificially browned with makeup, won’t be enough to dispel this cliché.

The artist therefore continued to develop her palette in theater and television, becoming over the years herself a model for current stars like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gloria Estefan and Eva Longoria.

Like many other stars of Latin American descent interviewed in the documentary, they say how inspiring Rita Moreno’s work has been.

“I promised myself that I would be as honest as possible” in the documentary, said the latter.

However, she admits having had a hard time evoking in front of the camera her marriage – not so happy despite appearances – with the American cardiologist Leonard Gordon, who died in 2010. “It was the only time during the shooting that I asked them to cut because I was going to cry. “

The actress isn’t quite so emotional when she talks about her passionate but toxic relationship with legendary actor Marlon Brando, which spanned eight years.

“Have you ever been so obsessed with someone that you felt like you couldn’t breathe without them? That’s how Marlon was about himself,” he quipped. -she.

“He was the dad I couldn’t satisfy,” adds Rita Moreno.

She now lives in California, enjoys cooking, and says she makes a “to die for” gazpacho, a routine that is likely to be shaken up a bit in the coming months by movie award season.