Annie is ready to belt out Tomorrow anew as the Broadway smash returns to the big screen with Will Gluck directing and Quvenzhané Wallis portraying the title character. The Beasts of the Southern Wild Oscar nominee could not have been a better choice and she’s joined in the all-star cast by Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne.
We caught up with Annie director Will Gluck for an exclusive interview where the helmer talked about the joys of filming on location in New York City, the magic of Foxx and how a guy like him was so custom-made for a big Hollywood movie musical plus what it is about Annie that has us still falling for the little orphan who sees nothing but opportunity where there should be none.
Movie Fanatic: What was the highlight from the entire experience of making Annie for you?
Will Gluck: Shooting the whole thing on location in New York City was fun. Every day was electric. We had to make changes and get the city marinated in the scene. There was never a dull moment. I just love playing with the actors on the set and there’s no one better than Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. One of my favorite scenes is with Jamie and Cameron when Cameron approaches Jamie outside when he thinks she is whatever he thinks she is. After that, Cameron and Jamie and I were sitting in the car, and in between shots it’s freezing. I told them they have to do another movie together because they are terrific. Maybe they could be cops, whatever… [laughs] It was a lot of fun.
Movie Fanatic: Broadway productions, touring productions, they revisit musicals all the time, sometimes several times in a decade. But, that never happens with movies. Why do you think that is and why was Annie right to be that musical that we get to see again?
Will Gluck: They used to do that in the '50s and '60s, but I think because every movie today is a comic book movie, when you have a comic book taking up every spot -- that takes up every spot for different things. I don’t know if it’s that they’re not revisiting musicals or we don’t get to see a movie unless there’s a cape in it.
Movie Fanatic: Why did you want to make this movie?
Will Gluck: I wanted to make a movie with my kids, because I have kids that age. And two, this is my superhero movie. She puts on a costume, that’s her cape. And in some ways, she has more superpowers than the superheroes because blinding optimism is a better superpower than flying.
Movie Fanatic: There is no one more suited for a musical than Jamie Foxx. What did you find so special about him?
Will Gluck: He’s so funny. He’s so great with his body and he’s such a great singer and a good dramatic actor. And this is not just the director plugging the movie. I often would get lost watching him do scenes and would often go over watching him try different lines different ways. He has so many tools in his toolbox. He takes what you give him and makes it so much better and more engaging. This guy has had a number one record. He’s won an Oscar (for Ray). He’s had a hit TV show. He’s done it all. You know when people are talented and you know when people are manufactured. Jamie Foxx is so talented, it’s mind-numbing.
Movie Fanatic: There are so many wonderful songs in the movie. Do you have a personal favorite, or is it like choosing a favorite puppy?
Will Gluck: My favorite song is when Quvenzhané Wallis sings Opportunity and in the Guggenheim. In all the screenings we’ve had, it’s when the guys start crying. I’m not kidding. Every time we’ve screened the movie, after Opportunity, like 10 guys have to go to the bathroom [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: Even dating back to the comic strip with Little Orphan Annie back in the day, she’s really touched people. Why do you think that is? Is it that optimism?
Will Gluck: When parents describe Annie, they describe it as a rags to riches tale. Annie, at age 11, she doesn’t know poor or rich. That is something that adults put on her. She just knows that she has to make the best of the situation that she’s in and she knows that there is light at the end of the tunnel. She knows that that light is never going to go away. I think the adults in society tell kids that the light is going to go away. If we could somehow all be like Annie, and say, “No, we can find a family. We can better ourselves.” If we all believe that, we all will. Kids ultimately want to do the right thing and are taught to do the wrong thing.