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ANNIE

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 other."

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 in… 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 years old."

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 classic songs.

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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