Rita Moreno on tackling ‘80 for Brady’ and how New York shaped her groundbreaking career

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Rita Moreno and her “80 for Brady” co-stars had to call an audible.

Production for the comedy film about football-loving friends in or around their 80s began last March, shortly after Tom Brady retired from the NFL for the first time. He announced his comeback soon after, causing the movie’s makers to sack one of the film’s final moments.

“We didn’t expect, any of us, that he would un-quit football,” Moreno told the Daily News with a laugh. “We had to rewrite a whole scene at the end. We had already shot [the] scene, but it didn’t make any sense because he suddenly unretired.”

Moreno, 91, is no stranger to unexpected plot twists. The Puerto Rican-born, New York-raised actress paved her own way, breaking down Hollywood barriers as the first Latina to win an Oscar and appearing in nearly 200 movies, shows and Broadway productions.

She co-headlines “80 for Brady,” now playing in theaters, with Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Sally Field. Based on a true story, the film depicts four Brady fanatics who travel to Houston to watch the New England Patriots in 2017′s Super Bowl LI.

“It’s important to think of how four ladies of very specific ages have had a friendship for years and years and are real fans of football,” Moreno said. “People somehow don’t make those connections. That’s part of what makes it delicious. It’s part of what makes it moving. It’s part of what makes it really, really funny. These people know their football.”

Playing the group’s fashion-focused eldest member, Maura, was a natural fit for Moreno, a longtime football fan who rooted for the Patriots before she was cast. She was thrilled to meet Brady, who also stars in the film. Brady retired again this month, this time “for good,” he said.

Moreno’s passion for performing began as a 5-year-old in Puerto Rico, where she delighted her grandfather by dancing to Latin music records.

“He would applaud and carry on and hug me,” Moreno recalled. “I remember thinking, ‘Boy, this is nice. I like this a lot.’ I do believe that some people are wired to do one particular thing in their lives and I was one of those people.”

She moved to New York soon after and credits the city with making her “stronger and tougher.”

“New York, to me, as an outlier, is America. When I left Puerto Rico at the age of 5, my mom and I were going to America. That turned out to be New York,” Moreno said.

“It’s still my home. I have an apartment there. I don’t ever not want to have an apartment there. I promised my daughter that when I go, that’s hers. That’s going to stay in our family forever and ever. We love New York. We love the theater. We love the vibe. When you get off the airplane ... you can feel the energy. It just feels different.”

Moreno was 13 when she made her Broadway debut in “Skydrift” in 1945. Her portrayal of the toe-tapping Anita in 1961′s “West Side Story” film proved to be her breakthrough role, earning her the Academy Award for best supporting actress.

She’s known as well for performances on PBS’ “The Electric Company” and HBO’s “Oz,” her Tony-winning turn in Broadway’s “The Ritz” and her return as a shopkeeper in Steven Spielberg’s 2021 adaptation of “West Side Story.”

Through it all, she’s remained a champion for Latino representation in Hollywood.

“That means everything,” Moreno said. “It reminds people — and boy do we need to remind people — that there is an entire Hispanic culture in the profession that doesn’t get used enough. I do believe that we are seriously underrepresented, and I don’t know that I’ll ever see the end of that.”

In 1977, Moreno became the third person to achieve EGOT status as the recipient of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Only 14 others have joined the exclusive club since.

None of those honors compare to what Moreno considers her proudest accomplishment.

“Longevity,” Moreno said. “Still being here at the age of 91, and not only still being here but working. Working is everything. No matter how many awards you’ve got, if you don’t have the work then you’re not doing what you love most in the world. And this is what I love doing most in the world.”