Will Smith and Jay-Z are still fully determined to press ahead with their plans for a remake of the beloved comic-strip-turned-radio-show-turned-stage-musical-turned-movie-musical Annie, with Willow Smith taking on the role of the iconic (traditionally red-haired) orphan.
The two are reportedly in the midst of negotiations with multiple Osar-winning actress/screenwriter Emma Thompson (who’s been working recently with Smith on Men in Black III) to script the new version of the musical.
Vulture indicates that Thompson would in essence be re-adapting the screenplay for director John Huston’s 1982 film version of Annie – which was itself based on Thomas Meehan’s book for the Tony Award-winning stage play that opened in 1977.
While Thompson has a long and impressive resume as an Academy Award-winning actress, she’s also a highly decorated screenwriter. Besides her script work on Ang Lee’s 1995 Sense and Sensibility adaptation (which also landed her an Oscar), Thompson also penned the acclaimed TV movie version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, did uncredited work on Joe Wright’s 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, and scripted both of the kid-friendly Nanny McPhee movies – which she also starred in.
On that note: the Vulture article also speculated that if Thompson does write the new version of Annie, she could be up to star in the film too – possibly in the role of Miss Hannigan, the boozing, child-hating head of the orphanage where Annie resides. That certainly sounds like a good idea, as Thompson could be hilariously horrible in that part, following in the footsteps of Carol Burnett (whose turn as the drunken caretaker is arguably the best part of Huston’s original movie).
Case in point: Check out Burnett as Miss Hannigan in the “Little Girls” number from the 1982 Annie movie below:
Smith and Jay-Z may seem like an odd couple to bring an old-fashioned musical like Annie back to the big screen, but the two are fresh (no pun) from co-producing the multiple Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical Fela!. Jay-Z also famously created his own variation on the famous Annie tune “It’s the Hard Knock Life” a few years back, and he will reportedly lend his musical talents to this new cinematic musical as well. Presumably that means Jay-Z will significantly re-work the film’s songs, so as to infuse them with a more contemporary feel and sound. Take that as you will.
Jaden Smith has already benefited from his father’s fame, having been given his own (successful) starring vehicle last year – in the form of another remake, The Karate Kid. Likewise, Willow Smith has already started a career in musical performance (see: “Whip My Hair”) and looks to benefit professionally from headlining Annie. Karate Kid surprised many a moviegoer last year by being a solid reworking of a much-loved story – so maybe Annie can do likewise.
Despite candidates like Glee‘s Ryan Murphy being courted as a potential director, there is currently no one officially onboard to helm the new version of Annie. Look for that to change in the relatively near future, as pre-production on the project really gets underway.