Following the announcement that 12-year old Willow Smith is no longer headlining the Annie remake that her parents (Will and Jada Pinkett Smith) and Jay-Z are producing, nine-year old Quvenzhané Wallis – the youngest person ever nominated for an Academy Award, for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild – seemed an obvious choice to replace her in a contemporary re-imagining of the musical (with Jay-Z infusing the original songs with more hip-hop flavor, a la his “Hard Knock Life” remix).
Sure enough, reports are now circulating that Wallis is being considered to join the production, which is now moving actively moving forward once more – with Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends with Benefits) onboard to direct.
EW‘s sources are stressing that the Hollywood power players working behind the scenes on this new re-interpretation of the Annie Broadway show – itself, based on Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie newspaper comic strip - “have yet to make any casting decisions.” However, Wallis easily qualifies as a front-runner to star for the time being, if for no other reason than her performance as Hushpuppy in Beasts left such a strong impression on so many who saw the film. Indeed, child stars with any sort of measurable experience are difficult to come by in general, so that also works in her favor of landing the job (assuming she and her parents want it, of course).
As for the sure-to-be-made-an-issue surrounding the casting of Wallis in the Annie role (which is traditionally played by a red-haired actress): it’s happened before – when Broadway actress India Scandrick became the first African-American to play the character onstage – and, ultimately, Annie’s ethnicity is separate from what defines her as a pop cultural icon (see: Screen Rant‘s Kofi Outlaw on ‘Changing Face: Diversity & Change’). The character requires in-your-face pluckiness and unbridled spirit, which Wallis is perfectly capable of handling.
Annie is currently undergoing script revisions, as Gluck revamps previous drafts from Oscar-winning actress/screenwriter Emma Thompson (Sense & Sensibility, Beautiful Creatures) and Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada). Filming is expected to begin this Fall, ahead of a late 2014 theatrical release.