A modern cinematic take on the Annie newspaper comic strip (remember those?) turned Broadway musical has spent long enough spinning its wheels that the film’s original intended starlet – producer Will Smith’s teen pop singer daughter Willow – literally outgrew the title role. However, she has since been replaced by the young Oscar-nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and that has allowed the project to get back on track for a theatrical release next year.
The next major role to fill in Overbrook Entertainment partner’s Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jay-Z’ contemporized reimagining of the famous musical is that of Annie’s adopted father, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks – and now we can safely report that, contrary to previous rumors, it won’t be Justin Timberlake sporting a chrome dome as the character.
THR is reporting that Jamie Foxx has received an offer to play the role and has set his representatives to the task of working out a deal for him to join the Annie cast. It’s still not clear when, exactly, this rendition is going to take place, be it during the present-day or very recent past – like, say, around the Financial Crisis of 2007 instead of the Great Depression (a la the original stage musical). Still, the general plot, which concerns a millionaire (Foxx) who invites a relentlessly spirited and upbeat young orphan (Wallis) to live with him, should remain the same.
One thing that will, for certain, be different from any of the previous film versions – that includes the 1982 Annie movie musical directed by the late John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre) which featured Albert Finney as Mr. Warbucks – is the name of Foxx’s character, who is now called Benjamin Stacks instead. (Get it? It was “war bucks” back during the 1930s, now it’s literally stacks of 100 dollar bills.)
That alteration to the Daddy Warbucks character fits with the overall design of the new Annie, which is receiving a “hip and trendy” makeover in the musical number department; it should be similar to Jay-Z’s music contributions to Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, or – as many a person has point out already – the tunes featured in director Sidney Lumet and pop star Michael Jackson’s primarily black-cast take on the Wizard of Oz movie musical, titled The Wiz.
Similarly, the project is being directed by Will Gluck, who has carved out a niche as someone who specializes in making “hip and trendy” variations on conventional fare, be it the coming of age genre (Easy A) or the modern rom-com (Friends with Benefits). Gluck’s movies sell well, but are occasionally criticized for being more formulaic than they aspire to be; in all likelihood, that won’t change with Annie (for better or for worse).
As for the chance that Foxx will play “Daddy Stacks”: the Oscar-winner is fresh off headlining Django Unchained, and is playing Max Dillon/Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (which is currently in production). However, Foxx’s schedule will be open thereafter, save for a couple of nice-and-easy voice acting jobs in upcoming 3D toons like Rio 2. That’s to say, pending any unforeseen complications at the last minute, a deal should be finalized.
Annie opens in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day 2014.