The iconic Rita Moreno is showing no signs of slowing down in her career with her starring role in One Day at a Time for four seasons and the upcoming remake of West Side Story and now the release of her documentary. Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It is set to be released in theaters on June 18 after the world premiere at Sundance. The doc will also air on PBS’ American Masters after it hits theaters. The trailblazing actress has been working in Hollywood for more than 70 years and in the documentary, we’ll see her humble beginnings in Puerto Rico and her rise to become the first Latina Oscar winner. She has gone on to become a rare EGOT winner (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) since winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in the 1961 film, West Side Story.
“She’s a true American Masters,” director Mariem Pérez Riera told Variety. “I think it’s important to inspire other women, to inspire other immigrants and other people that are trying their hardest to be successful in the United States. It was through her story that I was inspired myself when I was reading her book.
It also tackles the stereotypical roles she was offered despite her Oscar win and proven talents, like her role as Burmese slave named Tuptim in the 1956 movie musical The King and I. It also provides a rare and honest look at her marriage to Leonard Gordon which lasted from 1965–2010 and was praised for being a long-term marriage.
Moreno shared that he didn’t like her “raucous” laughter and big personality, and was often a “controller.” When he died, “I thought, ‘It’s over. I don’t have to answer to anybody anymore,’ ” Moreno says in the film.
She described their dynamic as “daddy/little girl” role and that it was when she wanted more control that the problems began. “It wasn’t about him as a person, it was about us as a matrimony,” Moreno told Variety. “I also wanted everyone to understand that no one person is at fault — it’s always the two of you.”
This honest approach to the documentary also extends to Moreno’s decision to allow herself to be filmed even without makeup, which she said was hard for her to see afterward as she’s always in “actress” mode.
Other celebs featured in the documentary are George Chakiris, Héctor Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Tom Fontana, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.
“We really wanted to dig deep and have the layers that ultimately you see in the film, everything from her personal to what we see in front of the camera,” producer Brent Miller told Variety.
Moreno recently filmed the remake of West Side Story directed by Steven Spielberg playing Valentina, a new part written for her.
“To be there, when Steven is giving you directions, and Steven is jumping around like a child with his finder, saying, ‘Rita, look at this. What do you think of this shot?’” Moreno told Variety. “He’s so enthused and happy — what a joy to work with this man. The sets will blow you away. You will really believe you’re in el barrio. It’s just astonishing.”
Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It is out in theaters June 18.