Loverat Marlon Brando made me get illegal abortion – I nearly bled to death & dated Elvis to spite him, says Rita Moreno

THERE'S not many women who can boast that they dated Elvis Presley just to make another man jealous – but that’s exactly what West Side Story star Rita Moreno did.

With eight decades in the business, the Puerto Rico-born actress, 89, is rightly hailed as a showbiz legend – so it’s no surprise she has plenty of stories to tell.

She used the King of Rock and Roll to get the attention of her cheating lover Marlon Brando – but it was never going to last because Elvis was just too dull. 

Speaking exclusively to The Sun as the Steven Speilberg remake of the 1961 classic hits cinema screens, Rita, 89, recalls: “Elvis was quite sweet, but he was boring.

"I was going with Marlon Brando at the time and I went out with him to make Marlon jealous… He was a sweet country boy, who didn’t have a whole lot to say.”

Meanwhile Marlon was "the funniest man I have ever, ever met. Extremely intelligent, extremely well read and extremely f****d up. Nothing but extremes".

But her eight year on-and-off relationship with American actor drove her to the point of suicide.

She was obsessed with Brando from the moment they met on the set of Desiree in 1954 – but he cheated on her repeatedly, even marrying twice and fathering children with his wives during their love affair.

A tipping point came when Rita told Brando she was pregnant with his child, and he coldly arranged for her to have an illegal abortion – which caused her to nearly bleed to death afterwards.

Eventually the “pain” of “letting him step all over me” brought the actress so low that she took an overdose.

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She survived, but it took years of therapy to get over Brando.

Perversely, Rita’s suicide attempt came not long after filming wrapped on West Side Story – a time in her career when she should have been riding high. 

As feisty Anita in the original, Rita made history by becoming the first Latina actress to win an Oscar – one of ten awarded to the smash hit movie.

Now she’s set to enter the record books all over again thanks to her new role in the remake.

If she wins an Oscar nod this time around, Rita will be the oldest nominee ever – and the only one to be nominated for a role in two versions of the same movie.  

“I’m so excited about it, I’m trembling," she tells us.

Told to 'black up'

Playing Anita changed her life forever. Until then Hollywood directors had repeatedly cast her as native Americans or Asians, even though she was from the Caribbean.

Sparky Puerto Rican Anita made a nice change from “boring dusky maidens", but she was shocked to find that even on the set of a film tackling the tragedy of white and Hispanic gangs killing each other, the stars were expected to “black up” – something she describes as “obscene.”

She says: “They wanted the same bloody dark shade on all of us.

“I remember saying to the make-up artist ‘Oh God I hate this make-up, it’s so dark that it streaks on me because of my lighter skin’.

"I said ‘I don’t understand why I have to wear it. I’m Puerto Rican,' and he actually said to me, ‘what are you racist?’”

I said ‘I don’t understand why I have to wear [dark make-up]. I’m Puerto Rican,' and he actually said to me, ‘what are you racist?'

The two white leads Natalie Wood, who played Maria, and George Chakiris, who played her brother Bernardo, both had to black up to portray their Hispanic characters.

Producers claimed they wanted to create a strong contrast between the Puerto Rican Sharks and the white Jets gang members.

Things are very different in Speilberg’s remake, for which he insisted all the actors and actresses fit the ethnic background of their roles.

He auditioned 30,000 people for the role of Maria, finding newcomer Rachel Zegler, whose mum is Colombian, in the process, and twice taking it to Puerto Rico so that locals could offer their opinions.

'Sex object'

Rita's Hollywood career began at 16 when she was signed to MGM Studios who thought she looked like a “Spanish Elizabeth Taylor", and she went on to become one of only four women to win an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy.

But she recalls being “treated as a sex object” from her teens.

Despite her young age bosses sent her to a cocktail party where one studio boss told her ‘I’d like to f*** you’ and the host said ‘you’re a sexy little b****’ as he writhed against her while dancing.

It was a sour taste of things to come for Rita.

When she was 19, John F Kennedy – at that point a prominent Congressman in his mid-30s – flirted with her in a nightclub.

She says: “That was the usual, the only thing that was different was we didn’t end up in his bedroom in the hotel.”

Even more disturbingly, the agent she relied upon to find her work forced himself upon her in his apartment.

The trauma of that rape came flooding back when Rita had to perform the scene in West Side Story where a gang of Jets attack Anita.

They were wounds that never quite healed and I still now maintain that some of those still exist in me

She fled the set in floods of tears in 1961 after the male actors closed in on her. 

Rita says: “You think those old scars aren’t going to rear their head again and to your amazement and dismay it has not gone away.

“They were wounds that never quite healed and I still now maintain that some of those still exist in me.”

The veteran star thinks women are still being exploited, with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s convictions for rape and assault last year demonstrating how little has changed.

Rita, who also appeared in Singin’ in the Rain, Carnal Knowledge and the King and I, eventually found love away from Hollywood, wedding doctor Leonard Gordon in 1965 after they were set up on a blind date.

They were together until his death in 2010 and have one daughter, Fernanda, and two grandsons.

Turned down Speilberg

As she approaches her 90th birthday this month, Rita shows no sign of slowing down.

She has starred in the Netflix sitcom One Day At A Time since 2017, appeared in a number of films over the past decade and has made a documentary about her life titled Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It.

It meant she had the confidence to turn down Spielberg when he first spoke to her about appearing in his remake of West Side Story.

Rita told the director she didn’t want to do a “cameo”, but changed her mind when she realised the role was far bigger than that.

She will play the newly created part of Valentina, the widow of the character Doc who prevented Anita being raped in the original.

Returning to that moment was difficult for the actress, particularly watching the new Anita, Ariana DeBose from the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, perform it.

She reveals: “It was eerie and almost creepy. There I am in that very same scene, but I’m really taking Doc’s place.

“I am looking into another Anita’s face, you have no idea how bizarre that felt. It was a sort of out of body experience.”

Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It is available to download. West Side Story is in cinemas now.

For help and support to deal with mental health problems, contact Samaritans,, 116 123.

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