News that an Academy Award-nominated Black child actress is starring in an upcoming film version of the musical Annie sent opponents of her casting over the edge on Twitter recently.
On March 9, Twitter was abuzz about Quvenzhané Wallis, 10, who will play the orphan Annie in an upcoming movie produced by Jay Z and Will Smith. Besides Quvenzhané, the film stars Academy Award winning actor Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks, a wealthy politician, and Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan.
Smith initiated the process to make the film in 2011 as a project for his actress daughter, Willow. Co-producer Jay Z’s best-selling album, Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, included the song “Hard Knock Life Ghetto Anthem,” which sampled the song,“The Hard Knock Life,” from the original Annie soundtrack.
Quvenzhané, who hails from Louisiana, became the youngest actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress when she was tapped for her performance as Hushpuppy in Beast of the Southern Wild in 2012. She also drew acclaim for her performance in 12 Years a Slave, this year's Best Picture Oscar winner and has won a host of awards for her work.
However, that is not the focus of much of the Twitterverse chatter. After a trailer was released recently offering a brief snippet of Quvenzhané in the title role, her casting received raves from some, criticism from others and rants from racists who spewed anonymous venom at the child on the Internet.
Some of the comments were simply examples of backward thinking from people who are too narrow-minded to see that a remake of a classic can be legitimately filmed with characters different from the originals. In Hollywood it's called "non-traditional" casting–placing actors in roles regardless of race or gender if the casting won't interfere with the production.
"I'm saying that Annie has always been a white red headed curly girl," tweeted @shakeitanggg. "This defeats the idea of who Annie is."
"I'm not racist. ANNIE IS NOT BLACK. She is a cute little white girl with curly red hair. She does not have an Afro," @stonemegan14 tweeted.
Some people, however, tweeted comments that were even more offensive.
“They made a n—– Annie. Why?” tweeted @ethanoflegend, who later changed his handle, possibly after receiving a flood of replies admonishing him for his remark.
"Annie was a freckled face redhead, not a nappy head parasite infected #n—– s–tbag! #n——ruin everything!!" wrote @Bum_Farto cloaking himself behind anonymity.
The original Annie debuted on Broadway in 1977 and ran for nearly six years, with Andrea McArdle, a redheaded White girl in the lead role. In 1982, Annie was released as a film again, this time starring Aileen Marie Quinn, who is also White.
In 1999, a television rendition was released, again with a White child actress.
The new Annie began production in August 2013 and is set to hit theaters on December 19, 2014.
In published reports, Willow, now 13, said she turned down the role because she “just wanted to chill, and be at home, and decompress, and just find out what I wanna do and where I stand on this planet…,” she is quoted as saying in several publications, including V magazine.
Will Smith is reported to have told an audience at Temple University in Philadelphia last year that his daughter begged out after her difficult “Whip My Hair Tour,” despite him trying to convince her of the opportunity the performance presented, according to christianpost.com.
“Daddy, I have a better idea. How about I just be 12,” Willow told her father, according to the website.