Hollywood royalty and icon Rita Moreno is getting her own documentary on PBS and fellow acclaimed Puerto Rican and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda will be one of the executive producers.
Rita Moreno: The Girl Who Decided to Go for It will chronicle the Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer’s 70-year career, delving into lesser-known aspects of her life including her attempted suicide a year before she became the first Latina actress to win an Academy Award for her iconic role in West Side Story.
SO SO proud to work w @TheNormanLear on [email protected]’s THE trailblazer. HEEEEEY YOU GUUUUUUYS https://t.co/PHXXagZZxM
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) July 29, 2019
Moreno, 87, grew up in poverty on a farm in Puerto Rico before moving to New York City at five years old with her mother, who worked as a seamstress. She studied dance and performed on Broadway, dealing with racism and sexism as she was cast for ethnic minority roles even after her star-making turn as Anita in the 1961 musical film West Side Story. The documentary will also explore the sexual abuse she endured and her toxic eight-year relationship with Marlon Brando, who she co-starred with in the 1968 film, The Night of the Following Day.
“Rita is La Reina. Punto. Full stop,” Miranda said in a statement reported by Deadline. “Her life, talent and career is a masterclass in the American dream.” The In the Heights creator will join forces with legendary television producer Norman Lear and documentary filmmaker Michael Kantor as executive producers.
“As a filmmaker, woman and Puerto Rican, I am proud to have the opportunity to tell Rita’s story,” director Mariem Pérez Riera said. “Her many victories in the face of prejudice are an inspiration to me. Hopefully, this film will give strength to the women all over the world, who today, face a similar fight towards equality.”
The documentary will feature interviews with co-stars and admirers including Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, and Chita Rivera.
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West Side Story’s central premise – that love transcends prejudice and intolerance – hasn’t lost relevance since I played Anita in 1961. This story shows the power of hope and love over prejudice and intolerance, and I cannot wait to see a cast of dynamic young performers from the Hispanic community and beyond bring it to a new generation. ¡Felicidades y bienvenidos @rachelzegler, @arianadebose, @davidalvarezofficial y @joshandresrivera!
As the title implies, the focus will be on her resilience and talent as she paved the way for younger generations and fought for representation while breaking down barriers in Hollywood, according to Broadway World. The documentary is part of the PBS American Masters series and will air in 2020 with archival footage, animation and reenactments of Moreno’s childhood in addition to interviews.
Moreno, who is one of the few elite stars who can claim EGOT status, meaning she’s won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, is currently filming the Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story, playing the role of Valentina, a version of the store owner Doc from the original film. She’ll also be reprising her role as Lydia in the sitcom One Day at a Time, produced by Lear after it was picked up by Pop TV following its cancellation on Netflix after three seasons.
“How I wish my Puerto Rican mother were alive to see this: her child’s story being celebrated,” said Moreno in a statement published by PBS. “It is not something she or I could ever have imagined. I’m astonished. I’m humbled.”