Here’s our first look at Columbia Pictures‘ take on the Tony-winning Broadway musical-turned-feature. Beasts Of The Southern Wild breakout Quvenzhané Wallis stars as Annie as the precocious foster kid from Harlem who is taken in by mega-rich mayoral hopeful Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx). Cameron Diaz — …
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures and Overbrook Entertainment have set Bobby Cannavale to star in Annie. He joins Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne in the Will Gluck-directed film. Cannavale is coming off Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and turned in an epic villain performance in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. He’s Emmy nominated for that and a stint in Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. He will play a bulldog political adviser to Foxx’s character as he makes a mayoral run in New York. The film is set for release Christmas Day 2014.
Gluck is producing with James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith through Overbrook Entertainment, and by Shawn “JAY Z” Carter, Jay Brown, and Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith through Marcy Media. Gluck is currently revising the film’s screenplay, which was written by Emma Thompson and rewritten by Aline Brosh McKenna. It’s based on the comic strip and the musical stage play Annie, with book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, and lyrics by Martin Charnin. The film is being overseen at the studio by Andrea Giannetti and Devon Franklin.
BREAKING: Sony Pictures and Overbrook Entertainment have found their title character for Annie. They’ve set Oscar nominated Beasts Of The Southern Wild star Quvenzhane Wallis to play the role, in a film to be directed and produced by Will Gluck. Also producing are James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith producing through Overbrook, with Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, Jay Brown and Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith through Marcy Media. That was the role that Willow Smith was going to play, but she grew out of it during the film’s long period of development. The contemporized re-imagining of the Broadway musical will shoot later this year for holiday 2014 release. Gluck, the helmer who directed Easy A and Friends With Benefits for Sony-based Screen Gems, signed on last month. Gluck has been revising a screenplay written by Emma Thompson and rewritten by Aline Brosh McKenna based on the musical and its book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin. That’s based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip. Wallis is up for Best Actress today–youngest ever in that category–for her cute as a button portrayal as Hushpuppy in Beasts Of The Southern Wild. She was six when she made that film and is now nine, but is even more adorable, if that is possible. She’s repped by ICM Partners. Here is the official word from Sony:
Overbrook Entertainment, Marcy Media, director Will Gluck and Sony Pictures Entertainment have cast Academy Award® nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, the star of Beasts of the Southern Wild, in the title role of Annie, it was announced today by Doug Belgrad, president of Columbia Pictures, and Hannah Minghella, president of Production for the studio.
David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor.
Convincingly relating a child’s sense of wonder in a movie for grownups is never easy. But Benh Zeitlin and Dan Romer managed it handily in the music for Beasts Of The Southern Wild, which Zeitlin also directed and co-wrote.
Set in the wetlands of the deep South immediately before a major storm (presumably Hurricane Katrina), the film combines expected musical choices—country fiddle, accordion—with some unconventional ones—celesta and pop-music beats—to create a satisfying gumbo rich in character, mood, and atmosphere.
“I think the world looks down on these places,” Zeitlin says of his film’s setting. “I wanted to make this film about why people stay, about how beautiful and how much freedom there is in this culture. I want audiences to understand that places like this have found freedom and joy, and the music takes you there.”
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.
Looking back at her audition for the lead role of Hushpuppy in Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Quvenzhané Wallis is able to put it all in perspective. “If you are a 5-year-old, you just go ahead and try something,” she observes. “You don’t think about it. You are just a little kid.” Of course, she’s older and wiser now. She’s 9.
Today, Wallis, pretty in pink sequins and skinny jeans, is offering this thoughtful career overview in the elegant lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Her mom, Qulyndreia Wallis, is seated on a nearby sofa, but young Wallis fields questions about her first acting role all by herself.
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor
It’s not that independent filmmaker Benh Zeitlin, 30, and his team at Court 13 Productions had nothing to lose when they set out to produce Beasts of the Southern Wild, Zeitlin’s first feature film. But with a miniscule budget somewhere between $1.5 million and $1.8 million, they could afford to take a few more risks than a Hollywood producer hoping to turn a profit on a $200 million action film.
On the risky side: Casting two Louisiana locals with zero acting experience in the lead roles—one a 6-year-old—and dressing up a crew of little pot-bellied pigs to represent a herd of giant prehistoric Aurochs. These boar-like beasts bedevil the imagination of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), an independent little girl in white rubber boots who defies nature to try to save her ailing father (portrayed by Dwight Henry, a baker and restaurateur in real life) and her bayou home during a raging Katrina-like storm. (“They are about the cutest thing in the world when you see them live,” Zeitlin says of the little porkers).