89-Year-Old Rita Moreno Says This Is the Only Reason She'd Ever Quit Acting
"And even then, there’s always a wheelchair—or roller skates."
Rita Moreno is 89 years old, has had a seven-decade career as an actor, and is a rare EGOT winner—that's someone who has been awarded an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. But, even with so many accomplishments to her name already, Moreno has no plans to stop working. Her latest film, Steven Spielberg's remake of West Side Story, hits theaters this December, and she has another movie in the works titled The Prank. In a new interview with Variety, Moreno shared the only thing that could make her retire—and then immediately walked it back when she realized there's always a way to make things work.
Don't expect a retirement announcement from Moreno.
Moreno began acting in films in the '50s, including roles in the musicals Singin' in the Rain and The King and I. In 1961, she starred in another movie musical, West Side Story, as Anita, which is the role she is best known for and the one that won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. More recently, Moreno has appeared in TV series including Jane the Virgin and One Day at a Time.
In the interview with Variety, Moreno talked about her lengthy career and said, "I love what I do. The only way I can retire is if I can't walk." But then, she added, "And even then, there's always a wheelchair—or roller skates."
At her age, she still wants to play a wide range of roles.
Moreno also talked about older actors being typecast, which is something she's had to confront throughout her career in a different way. Being Puerto Rican, Moreno has spent much of her career not being considered for certain roles, even after winning her Oscar. "I was only seen in one way and having to speak always, always with an accent," she said in a 2017 video for Time magazine. "I couldn't even audition for anything that wasn't for a 'native girl.' And 'native girls' in movies in those days had no educations whatsoever, they were way too sexy. It's something that you don't readily see for what it is, you just get this bad feeling about yourself."
Speaking to Variety, Moreno said of ageist typecasting, "Why should I have to play a grandmother simply because I'm old? Can I be a lawyer? A scientist? So far, the answer is … not so much. Hollywood suffers in a profound way from ageism."
She doesn't let age hold her back at all.
The Variety interview isn't the first time Moreno has commented on her age not being a factor in when she'll retire. In a 2019 interview with San Antonio Current, Moreno was asked what drives her to continue working. "It's not like it's a job," she said. "It's what I love doing and I actually get paid for it, imagine that. And, you know, age has nothing to do with it. I'm one of those very energetic and alert 87-year-old people."
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She's thrilled to be returning to her West Side Story roots.
The West Side Story remake will be released in theaters on Dec. 10, 2021—60 years after the release of the first feature adaptation of the Broadway musical and the day before Moreno turns 90. While the actor starred as Anita in the first film, in the remake she plays the small role of Valentina and is also an executive producer. Valentina replaces the shop owner character Doc from the first film and is his widow.
"This is a great film. This is a great story," Moreno said of the film during a PBS TCA event in August (via Deadline). "It was probably one of the most thrilling times of my life. Also let's not forget, because I certainly can't, that I'm an executive producer on that film. That was a big, big surprise. I didn't expect anything like that and Steven [Spielberg] offered it and I couldn't understand why but I said, 'Oh, okay…' Damn, it's a marvelous movie."