An article by Steve Persall for The Tampa Baby Times.
Another day, another award, it seems, for Rita Moreno. This time it’s from the Gasparilla International Film Festival, where the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner picks up a career achievement prize Saturday night.
Two shelves in Moreno’s living room are “getting kind of crowded,” she said in a telephone interview. Her Gasparilla prize may not get squeezed in like December’s Kennedy Center Honor, but it’ll be treated better than her past EGOT trophies.
For years, Moreno kept awards that other performers might wear around their necks in a cardboard box.
“That was before I got married,” Moreno, 84, said, “and when I did, my husband said, ‘Hey, where’s that Oscar and the other things you won?’ I said, ‘I think they’re in a carton in the garage.’ He said, ‘In a what? Why?’
“I told him it just seems so ostentatious to have these on display in the house. And he said something that completely changed my mind: ‘Rita, you didn’t buy these, you earned them.’
“I’m like, you know, that’s true. From then on, the carton got thrown away. Of course, now they all wouldn’t fit in one carton. It’s just outrageous.”
Moreno will accept her Gasparilla award after a 6 p.m. screening of Remember Me, a comedy casting her as a tart-tongued widow road-tripping with two grandsons on the make.
“It’s a sweet movie, and isn’t she a marvelous character?” Moreno asked, and who’s going to disagree? “I made her profane; it wasn’t written that way.”
Moreno pointed to a scene in which her character riffs on the lack of conscience in men’s private parts. “That’s a complete improvisation,” she said. “Half of the stuff I do is improvised. Of course the best part is the look on (writer-director-actor) Steve (Goldbloom’s) marvelously reactive face. We had so many break-ups on this movie. I think at least a quarter of the budget went to doing scenes over again and trying not to laugh this time.”
Even playing an addled senior, Moreno appears capable of breaking into America from West Side Story at any moment. Her fitness is a constant source of pride and employment.
“I don’t do a lot,” she said. “I walk, and I just joined a gym so I can do some workout classes. Gentle ones. I am 84. I just have, obviously, really good Caribbean genes. My skin is pretty damn good for a person of my age.”
Remember Me comes on the heels of Moreno’s lauded guest shot on Grey’s Anatomy, and the cusp of a Netflix collaboration with TV legend Norman Lear, a Latino version of his 1970’s sitcom One Day at a Time.
“Oh, man, I am so excited about that,” Moreno said. “I just read the second draft of the pilot script and it is marvelous… so genuinely and authentically Latino, as opposed to these pathetic attempts at Latino sitcoms that are out there right now. Obviously I’m not mentioning any, but it certainly does not include Jane the Virgin, which is the only one I really love.”
What are those other shows missing?
“They’re still living in a time warp,” Moreno said, “still writing these fiery, sexy misogynistic teleplays… They don’t compare to what Norman sent me. He’s not brave because ‘brave’ immediately assumes that you’re afraid but doing it anyway. Norman has never been afraid.”
Neither has Moreno.