Like everything which once was popular, the Romeo and Juliet reimagining, West Side Story, has been given a second wind (and, as such, this blog will contain a lot of the word “Tony”). On Broadway, Tony-award winner Ivo van Hove will direct a theatrical revival set to begin in December 2019. Simultaneously, an awards-mongering film is in the works, written by playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America), directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Ansel Elgort, as Tony, a member of the Jets (the white gang whose rivals are the Puerto Rican Sharks).
It’s all very prestigious, but according to the illustrious Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for portraying Anita in the canon 1961 film and has a smaller role in the forthcoming remake in addition to being an executive producer, Tony Kushner’s Spanish sucks, and it shows. Moreno has notes.
On Tuesday, Vanity Fair reported that in a recent interview Moreno conducted with SiriusXM she called Kushner’s grasp of Spanish in an early draft of the script “horrific.” She bemoans, “I’ve only read a very, very rough [version] of the script, and it’s very rough, meaning tons of stuff is gonna be changed. For instance, Tony did the Spanish parts with his dictionary Spanish, which was horrific.”
Moreno, horrified, says she rang up Spielberg:
“I didn’t know how to say that to Steven. Finally, in our conversation on the phone…I said, ‘Listen, Steven, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the Spanish in the script is not terrific.’ He said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, that’s Tony Kushner using a Spanish dictionary.’ I was very nervous that Steven would think that that was the correct thing.”
I am glad Moreno addressed this literary mess and even more glad she told everyone about it.