ANNIE, Sony Pictures
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, ANNIE lyricist Martin Charnin discussed the various reincarnations of his 1970's hit Broadway musical. The self-proclaimed "keeper" of the Annie flame revealed that while he was not very pleased with past adaptations of his work, he is looking forward to the upcoming reboot from producers Will and Jada Smith and Jay-Z.
Back in 1970, it was Charnin who acquired the rights to adapt the classic comic strip 'Little Orphan Annie' into a Broadway musical, emptying his personal bank account in order to pay the Tribune newspaper $7,500. Seven years later, Charnin found himself picking up a Tony Award for Best Original Score for such classic tunes as "Tomorrow" and "It's the Hard-Knock Life."
Since then, the 78-year-old is in charge of licensing the musical which has been performed in 40 countries, including a 35 year run in Japan and a recent Broadway revival. The show has earned tens of millions of dollars in revenue for him.
In 1982, Columbia brought the musical to the big screen in an adaptation which starred Aileen Quinn as Annie and Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks. Disney adapted the story for a 1999 telefilm featuring Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan. In the interview, Charnin revealed that he abhorred both films. "We foolishly gave up the right to maintain any supervision on the 1982 movie," he says. "The money was so extraordinary, it was [my own] selfishness to allow it."
The upcoming version, to be helmed by Easy A's Will Gluck, will feature a mostly black cast and will be produced by Jay-Z, who in 1998 created his own hip-hop version of 'It's The Hard Knock Life." "Jay-Z found something in a lyric and applied it to his own life," praised Charnin who adds, "and it was absolutely wonderful."
As far as negotiating this latest version, Charnin's main concern is that his work is treated with respect. He quipped, "Shakespeare can be turned into a Civil War play, but I don't think Shakespeare has any agent alive who is going to make a fuss."