When Charlie and I traveled to New York at the beginning of December to be a part of the Annie movie media tour, we had a chance to pre-screen the film. Charlie and I also had the incredible opportunity to interview the director and lead actors in media roundtables. Joined by other parenting writers and bloggers, we met with Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, director Will Gluck, Bobby Cannavale and the modern Annie herself, Quvenzhané Wallis.
Charlie was especially thrilled to meet Wallis. He interviewed her on his 11th birthday, and she is 11, too. Rather than being starstruck, he was enthused to meet a peer who is doing something so interesting with her life.
When Wallis was asked about how she feels taking on the role of an icon, while portraying a girl who modern girls can look up to, her answer was vulnerable and real. “It’s really exciting to have people look up to me, and it just makes me really happy to know that there’s people who are actually looking up to me. But if I wasn’t doing any movies no one would basically look up to me, I guess you could say that?” How is that for a modest reply, right?
Wallis said of the character of Annie, “I loved that she had spunk and that she was really strong.”
Wallis is an amazing person, but I will admit I was most enthralled to meet Jamie Foxx. As my heart beat fast I asked him why he chose to make a film for families. His answer was hilarious and sweet.
“My daughter was on the set of ‘Django’ and I just thought I need a change. She was watching people get blown away and I thought, ‘I’m a bad parent.’ But really, it was great to come and work with Quvenzhané and have my daughter watch someone her size and see her being so magical in this movie,” said Foxx.
Foxx said that he has found a way to balance fatherhood and acting. “You take your kids with you. I worked with Oliver Stone in 1999 and I was asking him how do I go away and do this film and he said you just bring your kids to work. I wasn’t working a lot in movies during the time my oldest daughter was young but my youngest daughter goes absolutely everywhere with me.
“She can see Daddy go to work, she’ll be with me for two, three weeks, however long, She’s been on the set of Django, she’s been on the set of Spiderman, she’s on the set of Annie, and now she understands that when Daddy does have to go and she has to go to school, she understands why I’m going and what I’m doing for work.”
Cameron Diaz was likewise eager to make a film that children could see. She said, “I was missin’ Shrek! I spent 10 years with Fiona. It’s one thing to be [animated] Fiona where the parents tell their kid ‘this is Fiona!’ and they are like nooo, say something, and then they believe you. But now it’s fun to be engaged with young kids.”
Of course, her interactions with the children in the film are both funny and villainous, which required effort. “I was given permission to scream at kids. And a lot of face acting. My face was so tired. I was like I want to Botox my entire face just for like three months, I don’t want to move it,” joked Diaz.
Charlie asked Diaz and Bobby Cannavale, who play the ambitious Miss Hannigan and ruthless campaign manager Guy in the film, if they found it easy to play bad guys. The actors were both so kind in their answers to Charlie. Diaz replied, “You know we do a little thing called acting. The acting of it all is the fun part. Sometimes it’s challenging, ‘How do I find this person? How do I find what kind of evil lives inside of them?’ But with this character you take on the villain and it’s obvious, so it’s easy to play that.’
Cannavale looked Charlie in the eyes and also gave him a thoughtful, heartfelt answer. “What I like to see when I go to the movies or see theater is to see characters who are desperate. They don’t have to be a bad guy, they can be a good guy, but if they are desperate for love, desperate for friendship, for connection.
“With our characters, what they’re after might make them a villain in your eyes, but what’s attractive, what makes you interested in them is how badly they want something. So a guy like Guy (I love saying that, ‘ a guy like Guy’) is pretty shameless about what he wants, and he’s pretty shameless about how badly he wants it. And I think that makes a pretty good villain,” Cannavale replied to Charlie.
Charlie also sweetly inquired of Wallis if she bonded with the other young actors who played her fellow foster sisters. She smilingly answered, “I did have a strong bond with them! I talked to them a whole bunch and we’ve seen each other for the Macy’s Day Parade and other events.”
And for just a moment there in that professional press roundtable, she and Charlie were just two 11 year olds asking about their friends.
Check it out: 7 Best Things About the New Annie Movie
Many thanks to Rachel Ferucci of Tools2Tiaras for photography.
I received an invitation to attend the #Anniemovie media tour, as well as travel and accommodations. Sony Pictures was kind enough to allow me to bring Charlie along for a special birthday trip as well. Charlie’s travel and expenses covered by me. No compensation received. All opinions are my own.