About The Film
Director, writer and producer Will Gluck says that in approaching a new vision
for Annie - the classic show that won seven Tony Awards on Broadway and went on
to become a heartfelt movie classic for 1980s kids who are now parents
themselves - he was excited by the chance to work on a film that captures the
magic of family. "When we were filming, my daughter was the exact same age as
Annie - 10 years old," he says. "I wanted to be a part of a movie that I could
share with my family. I wanted to be part of a movie that would make everybody
happy. This is a movie that puts a smile on your face at the beginning and keeps
it there all day."
Working with a classic is no easy task, but it's one that Gluck, along with the
producers, approached with equal parts respect and excitement. "Annie has never
gone out of style," Gluck says. "At the end of the day, it's about finding
family - which is the only thing that any of us want. Annie thinks that if she
finds her parents, that's what 'family' means and she'll be happy. On the other
side of that coin, you have Will Stacks, who doesn't believe that he needs
family - he believes he's fulfilled by work and money. So these two people are
going on parallel paths, thinking they know the path to happiness. They realize
that their happiness is not what they thought it was - it's actually in each
Gluck says that's a story that would resonate in any generation. "That's why the
songs and story still entertain as much as ever. We had a chance to make a great
version of it that would appeal to today's kids and their parents."
In their vision for the film, Gluck and the producers wanted to put an updated,
contemporary spin on the classic Broadway classic. Rather than set the film in
the 1930s, "Annie" is set in the present day and the heroine is a 2014 kid in
every possible way. For starters, Annie is a foster kid, not an orphan. She
rides bikes through the city, knowing all the best routes to get through
traffic. "This little girl is savvy," says Caleeb Pinkett. "She understands the
way the world works, because she's street smart. She had to learn that way in
order to survive."
Leading the way, as Annie, is Quvenzhane Wallis, who not only set a record as
the youngest person ever nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award and was
recognized as an indelible and precocious talent for her performance in Beasts
of the Southern Wild, but stole hearts on the red carpet with her infectious
smile and her puppy purses. "She's amazing," says Gluck. "She's such a real,
authentic actor that every time she says these lines or sings, your heart just
breaks for this ten-year-old girl who's speaking from the heart. We were very
specific when we wanted to do this movie that we didn't want a child actor who
could be on Broadway; we wanted someone who felt real. We lucked out in
Quvenzhane in that she can sing, she can act, she's a joy to be around, but most
of all, your heart just comes into your throat every time she plays a real
emotion. That's a once-in-a-generation skill."
"I loved playing Annie," says Wallis. "She has spunk and does everything with a
smile, no matter what life throws at her."
As for the man who takes Annie inâ€¦ he's no longer a Depression-era industrialist
who got rich through war bucks - instead, he's Will Stacks, the head of a cell
phone company. "Stacks is worth $4.7 billion," Gluck explains. "He's created the
largest cellular network in the world. But all he cares about is work, work,
work. And as he's running for mayor, that's all New Yorkers see about him. He's
desperate to make a connection to the voters, so he takes Annie in as part of
this cynical PR ploy - but the last thing he expected is to make a connection to
one person in particular who can't even vote for him, because she's only 10
So the filmmakers have put a thoroughly contemporary spin on these characters -
and in so doing, they cast the roles with bright, all-star company of actors,
including Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, and Cameron Diaz. "Working
with people like Jamie and Cameron and Bobby and Rose is just one more way that
we made the movie feel like it's happening right now," says Gluck. "Of course,
the most important thing to us was their incredible comedy chops and their
ability to connect emotionally, but the fact that, collectively, the cast
reflects where we are today - that was a huge part of the way we wanted the
movie to look."
That contemporary feeling extended throughout the production, as Gluck and his
team concentrated on the settings and the fashion to give the film a distinct
feeling of today. Annie has always been a New York story, and at the direction
of Will Gluck, the film shot on location in New York City. "It's part of Will
Gluck's plan," says Caleeb Pinkett. "He said, 'If the movie is going to be
authentic, we can't shoot it on the stage. We've got to be in the streets."
Wardrobe, too, has received a contemporary facelift - costume designer Renee
Ehrlich Kalfus has given Annie and her co-stars some thoroughly modern threads.
And, of course, that contemporary feeling extends to the iconic songs as well,
including "Tomorrow," "It's the Hard-Knock Life," "You're Never Fully Dressed
Without a Smile," "Maybe," and many others. The music is overseen by veteran
executive music producer Greg Kurstin, with the superstar Sia updating the
Much of the work in updating the songs comes in the arrangements and the choice
of instruments. "The original versions were arranged with more traditional stage
instruments - woodwinds, brass, strings, a small ensemble," Kurstin explains.
"Instead of that, I've added real drums, bass, guitars, modern keyboards -
treating it like I would a pop song of today." Kurstin would play many of the
instruments himself, in his studio, bringing in drummers, or brass, or strings
as necessary. For one song, he even called in a marching band.
In addition, Annie features three new songs - "Who Am I?," "Opportunity," and
"The City's Yours" - that the music team worked to blend seamlessly in with the
iconic songs and score. "The new songs are just some of the best, well-written
songs I've ever had to work with," executive music supervisor Matt Sullivan
says. "They're really fantastic."
"Sia blew it out of the water," adds Cameron Diaz, who plays Miss Hannigan,
Annie's foster mother. "There are so many amazing songs, new and old, and we
were still singing them when we went home at the end of each day. The music is
so much fun."
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