West Side Story star Rita Moreno once thought it’d be “strange” to appear in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming remake. Apparently, she changed her tune.
The 86-year-old Oscar winner has officially joined the cast of the new film in both an acting and producing role, Fox confirmed on Tuesday.
Moreno, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Anita in the original 1961 film, will play Valentina, described as “a reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works.” Ned Glass appeared as Doc opposite Moreno in the first film co-directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise.
The actress will also be one of the remake’s executive producers.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work,” Moreno says 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!”
This is not what Moreno told EW on the red carpet for a Paley Center event in October. “I think it would be distracting,” she said at the time of a potential cameo. “No, no, no I don’t belong in there in any capacity.”
“From our earliest discussions, we wanted to include Rita Moreno in our production,” Spielberg now says. “Her Anita is one of the greatest musical performances ever filmed, and a personal favorite of mine. 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.”
Baby Driver‘s Ansel Elgort will star in the production as Tony, the Romeo-esque character of the white Jets who falls for Maria, a young woman from the rival street gang, the Puerto Rican Sharks.
Tony Kushner, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, penned Spielberg’s adaptation of the 1957 musical, which featured music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and concept director and choreography by Jerome Robbins.
Filming is scheduled to begin in summer 2019.