Rita Moreno talks her legendary career and upcoming documentary

The inspirational, EGOT-winning icon will have more of her story told in "Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It," which is out June 18.
6:11 | 06/14/21

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Transcript for Rita Moreno talks her legendary career and upcoming documentary
Well, it is an absolute treat to bring in our next guest. Big screen legend egot winner Rita Moreno is starring in the new documentary about her life. She is standing by to talk to us live, but first, take a look at her story. Reporter: She's the Oscar winner from the original "West side story." and now in a new documentary, called "Just a girl who decided to go for it," -- Hello, cutie. Reporter: Rita Moreno is opening up about her life like never before. At the age of 16 years old she was the sole breadwinner for her family. Little Puerto rican girl, and nobody saw me at mgm with a contract. Reporter: Some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including her co-stars from Morgan Freeman to Gloria estefan shared the impact of this trail blazer. She made me feel like she could do anything. She did. She was a Latina like me. Reporter: Produced by lin-manuel Miranda shares her activism during the civil rights movement and how she learned to use her voice. Wear your nationality like a be proud of it. Reporter: The doc also reveals how she carved out her place in Hollywood against all odds. She comes up with what she calls the universal ethnic accent. She would audition for the Russian girl, and she would talk like this. For the Cuban girl, she would talk like this. Nobody knew the difference. They are different countries. We thought there was no place for us in the world of arts to get into, and we could look up and see Rita, and she could do it. How close can I get? She is here. Rita Moreno. So good to have you with us, and I was looking at some older interviews when you would go be a guest on some shows. You would always come out dancing no matter what it seemed. Are you still dancing these days? Of course. Absolutely. You know, what's not to dance for? I love it. I love to move. I think it's important to stress the fact that I'm going to be 90 in a couple of months. Wow. And still dancing. You're looking at an 89-year-old. Well, let's go back. We're looking at you now, and when you were young, a teen when you were auditioning for roles, the first one you did with mgm, you didn't have Latina stars to look up to, so your mom tried to dress you up to look like Elizabeth Taylor? This is when I went to meet Louis B. Mayer, and we tried very hard, and I enhanced everything I possibly could with my mom's help, and yep. Yep, yep. That's kind of how I tried to look, and he said, oh my god. This looks like a Spanish Elizabeth Taylor and I thought -- Nailed it. That's it, and sure enough, I got a contract there. Things have certainly -- It helped me. At that time you didn't have anyone to look up to that looked like you. What do you think? Times have really changed, haven't they? You know what? There was no such thing -- there was no such thing as a role not for children like me, and I say children because I was 16, 17. There were no mentors for people like me. You just -- everybody always said, well, who supported you? Who helped you? Nobody. That's how it was, and I guess that's what, in a way, toughens a little bit of your exterior, though I've never thought of myself as a tough person. I'm a resilient person. And here you are, and of course, the breakthrough role was "West side story," but we talk about the film will get into some of your activism, but you almost didn't -- you took the role, but almost wanted to back out because of what? There was a particular lyric that was disparaging to Puerto Rico that you almost backed out of this role because of that? My character Anita is a person who loves America and wants nothing to do with Puerto Rico, and the verse of the song originally was really quite disparaging to Puerto Rico, and I completely forgot that, and then I got the part after working very hard to get it. Screen tests all over the place, and I realized, oh my god. This verse to America, I don't think I can do this. I don't think I can do this to my people, and I was this close to calling my agent to say, I can't do this, and I knew he would kill me, but it just happened honestly that just about that time, they changed the lyric. Changed the lyric and made it possible for me not knowing of course, that I could now do that film. I was heartbroken. I thought, my agent's going to kill me. But you stuck to your guns and it worked out for you anyway. Last thing here, you're going to be in the remake. What a full circle moment. Steven Spielberg's remake of "West side story." What was it like being back? Unbelievable. So fabulous. The girl who plays my part, Anita, is wonderful. Ariana is fabulous, and I have a part. I have a real part in it. I even sing one song. I can't believe it. Thank you to Tony Kushner who wrote the script. They wrote the script and wrote you in it in particular. It is an absolute pleasure. You keep dancing and thank you for that advice today. We are going to see you down the road and you will be dancing whenever we see you. You have a good one. Thank you. The same to you. Bye-bye. It's called "The girl who decided to go for it." It's in theaters this Friday.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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