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Rita Moreno shares how ‘West Side Story’ changed her life

<i>Angela Weiss/SAG Foundation/Getty Images</i><br/>Rita Moreno will be back on the big screen in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of
Getty Images for SAG Foundation
Angela Weiss/SAG Foundation/Getty Images
Rita Moreno will be back on the big screen in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of "West Side Story

By Marianne Garvey

Rita Moreno will be back on the big screen in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of “West Side Story,” next month.

It’s another milestone for Moreno, soon 90, who rose to fame for her role as Anita in the original musical film in 1961. Her performance in the film also earned her an Academy Award for best supporting actress.

Moreno appeared on “60 Minutes” on Sunday to talk about the new “West Side Story,” her life, resilience and love.

Moreno is also one of the rare Hollywood stars to be an an EGOT winner; along with the an Oscar from “West Side Story,” she won an Emmy for her performance on “The Muppet Show,” a Grammy from “The Electric Company,” and a Tony for “The Ritz.”

She says she became a star because she worked harder — and longer — than anyone else.

“I never stopped rehearsing. In fact, somebody told me recently that they were a dance extra on the mambo at the gym scene. And one of the girls turned to her when we had ten minutes off, and she says, ‘Look at Rita Moreno. She’s still rehearsing.'” she says, “That’s what you have to do to become a star.”

Despite her talent, she still had insecurities, she said, stemming from being raped as a teen when she first came to Hollywood and the racism she experienced.

“I grew up filled with self-loathing because I was a Puerto Rican. When you’re little, you’re told you’re not worth anything, you believe it,” she said, adding, “I want women to know that all the awards in the world will never make up for the things I have experienced in my life. The be-all and end-all is respect and self-respect which took me a long time to earn.”

Moreno also discussed her relationship with Marlon Brando. Brando was married when Moreno got pregnant with his baby. She said he pressured her to have an abortion and she attempted suicide after.

“What I was really trying to do was kill that bad side of me that kept going back to him. That bad woman who didn’t respect me, who was me, another side of me,” she said.

Six months later, she landed “West Side Story” and the film changed her life.

“Anita, the one who had a sense of herself. A sense of dignity. And I had to portray that. And it felt really good,” she said.

In the new movie, Moreno plays Valentina, the wife of the late of Doc, the candy store owner in the original.

“West Side Story” will be released on Dec. 10.

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