Last week, Screen Rant reported that Will Smith was planning to team with Jay-Z to remake the musical Annie, with his daughter Willow Smith in the lead role. Since, then the project has been officially confirmed, with a recent press release explaining how the film will come together.
According to the press release (via Deadline), the film will be produced by Overbrook Entertainment partners James Lassiter, Ken Stovitz, Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith in a joint venture with Jay-Z. Sony Pictures Entertainment will develop the film.
As is typically the case with press releases, there’s plenty of quotes from all parties involved about what great news this announcement is, and how pleased everyone is to be working together. For the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on the more important snippets:
:Columbia Pictures President Doug Belgrad:
“The time is right to bring back ANNIE to the big screen. Of course, we’re true believers in Willow’s talent and believe she will be perfect in this role…Combining Willow with the Overbrook team that reimagined Karate Kid and the spectacular JAY-Z makes this a dream project. A decade ago, JAY-Z proved that the power of the underlying Broadway property remains, by showing how these songs could be reinterpreted for a new generation with “Hard-Knock Life”. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with our friends at Overbrook as they launch this new venture.”
Stated Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter:
“The Overbrook Entertainment family and I have a unified vision. We’ve already produced a Tony Award-winning play and we’re developing a true superstar in Willow. This venture into film development and production is a perfect next step with teams that are accomplished, creative, and innovative.”
In our previous report on Annie, many commenters were incensed to learn that Will Smith was interested in developing a project for his daughter. Personally, I think that negative reaction is undeserved. Nepotism has always thrived in Hollywood – so what’s the big deal if Will Smith, a talented and well-liked star, develops movies for his talented and well-liked kids?
While the remake of The Karate Kid wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea (I thought it was okay, but a far cry from the original), the movie did HUGE business in the United States and overseas, making almost $360 million worldwide. Will Smith isn’t just a loving parent, he’s also a savvy businessman. It’s not like he is going to stick his kid in terrible movies that have no appeal.
Speaking of the loving parent thing, I think Will Smith is handling his kids’ careers perfectly, and I have a little anecdote to help back me up. When The Karate Kid was coming out, I covered a red carpet premiere for the movie in Chicago. While all of the journalists and photographers were there to talk with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith (who were both perfectly pleasant), we all really wanted to talk to Will Smith.
Now, if Will Smith had a huge ego, he might have taken the opportunity to grandstand and do interviews along with his son. As a producer of the movie, he was certainly entitled to do anything he wanted. However, rather than stealing the thunder from Jaden, Will simply came out, waved to the fans, let the press snap a few pictures and disappeared moments later. In other words, he got the crowd hyped up for his kid, then sent Jaden out to take in the applause.
On its surface, that may not sound like a very noble thing to do (what parent wouldn’t let their kid have the glory?) but in the twisted world of Hollywood, you don’t always see that. Yes, he’s a celebrity using his celebrity to help his kids’ careers. But he’s doing it out of love. If that makes you angry, well, tough.
Of course, I still have my reservations about handing Annie over to the girl who sings “Whip My Hair”, but I’ll at least give it a chance. Judging by the header image above, she certainly is qualified in the lovable looks department.