It’s probably not a coincidence that Sony Pictures is currently pressing ahead once more with a modern cinematic adaptation of Broadway musical sensation Annie (based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip), following on the heels of great box office returns and critical success of this winter’s Les Misérables screen musical.
The project’s been slowly developing for the past two years, with power couple Will and Jada Pinkett Smith producing through their Overbrook Entertainment banner (along with Jay-Z and Tyran Smith through Marcy Media). Originally, the plan was for the Smiths’ pop-star daughter Willow to assume the iconic orphan role in a contemporary re-envisioning of the story.
Deadline is reporting that the Annie remake will be “contemporized,” but does not clarify whether the show’s songs are being infused with hip-hop flavor similar to how Jay-Z revamped “Hard Knock Life” - and the original Depression era setting is being traded in for the 21st century – or, rather, if just one of those alterations is going to occur. After all, Jay-Z is scoring The Great Gatsby for filmmaker Baz Luhrmman, so there’s a possibility Annie will likewise retain its historical backdrop while incorporating modern pop cultural stylings in music (to create a film that is less period-accurate and more concerned with painting an Impressionist portrait).
Director Will Gluck has boarded the Annie remake and will be revising the adapted screenplay originally penned by Oscar-winning writer/actress Emma Thompson (Beautiful Creatures) – featuring a subsequent revision from Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory) – in preparation for a fall production start date. However, Willow Smith is no longer starring, as she is considered to have outgrown the lead role.
Gluck’s directorial resume includes Emma Stone’s breakout vehicle Easy A and the Justin Timberlake-Mila Kunis rom-com Friends with Benefits. Both of those films were significant financial successes and generally popular with audiences; though, Gluck has also been criticized for being possessing something of a smug attitude as a storyteller, with regards to how his movies openly dismiss genre conventions (often through dialogue) but ultimately embrace them anyway. To be frank, it’s that quality that makes me somewhat wary of him taking on something described as a “contemporized” Annie.
Those reservations aside, the involvement of talent like Jay-Z, Emma Thompson and the Smiths collaborating behind the scenes is enough to keep me interested in seeing how this turns out. If nothing else, the final result should turn out a far cry from back when Glee creator Ryan Murphy was in consideration to direct (that was before American Horror Story took off, mind you).
Look for Annie to open in theaters in late 2014.