ANNIE 2014: My Interview with Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, Will Gluck #AnnieMovie

annie 2014 review posterWhen I was in New York for the Annie press junket I had the amazing chance to interview Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis and Will Gluck the day after I screened the movie.

Note: Annie is wonderful! See my review of Annie for more information.

You would think this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for a little blogger like me, especially doing this right after interviewing Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale.

Nope! I can hardly believe it myself, but this was the second time in four months that I interviewed Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis and Will Gluck! Someone needs to pinch me, because stuff like this just does not happen to people like me!

jamie foxx at minnesota mall of americaIf you’re not familiar with the names, here’s a quick rundown:

  • Jamie Foxx  ::  Oscar-winning actor who starred in Ray, Django Unchained, Dreamgirls and plenty of other hit films. He plays Will Stacks in Annie.
  • Quvenzhané Wallis  :: Plays the title role of Annie in Annie. She’s an Oscar-nominated 11 year old actress who has starred in Beasts of the Southern Wild and 12 Years a Slave.
  • Will Gluck  ::  Director, producer and screenwriter of Annie. Previous films include Friends with Benefits, Easy A and The Michael J. Fox Show, among many others.

One previous encounter with these celebrities wasn’t enough to ease my nerves before interviewing them. Thankfully, the three of them walked into the room, sat down and were ready to get down to business!

mom blogger press trip movie junketHere are the highlights of my interview with Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis and Will Gluck:

How does it feel to be able to remake a classic?

How does it feel? We always get this question. When you make the movie you don’t feel it at all. It’s always afterwards when people ask you that. 

What we wanted to do was we wanted to keep what connected with us in the original Annie. The story of optimism, of hope and of never giving up. Of finding your place in life and finding your family. That’s the feeling we wanted to take and connect with the bones of the great music.

And we wanted to make [this] ‘Annie’ our own. As long as we kept those touchstones we felt that we could go off a little bit and make it what we wanted to do. 

We felt we did that. We felt the spirit comes out of the movie. We did a lot of nods to the “old” ‘Annie’. As soon as a lot of people see [the number] ‘Maybe’ they realize, ‘Oh, ok. Everyone can relax. It’s ‘Annie’. It might go a little to the left, but it’s ‘Annie’.

JF: If you look at remakes today…everybody’s doing them. ‘The Green Hornet’. ’21 Jump Street’. I think it’s great to grab a wonderful brand and have a wonderful actress with it.

Quvenzhané was nominated at such an early age and now she’s stepped into this iconic role. I just thought it would be the right time. Then Jay Z remaking Hard Knock Life. It just seemed really fresh. 

There are so many big names behind this film as producers. How did that come about? [To Will Gluck] Was it your idea to remake the film? 

WG: Will [Smith] and Jay Z got the rights. They talked to the original writers. They got everyone excited about it, then I came on board. 

Having Jay Z attached to the film is like having the keys to the music castle. He opened up the doors. I met Sia through that. Then I got Quvenzhané Wallis on board and Greg Kurstin. Having his imprimatur on it…everyone lays down at your feet. So it was good! 

Jamie to Quvenzhané: Talk about where you’re from and how this whole big world has opened up to you. 

QW: I’m from louisiana. Before I was acting, I was going to school and I was on the A/B honor roll. I’m still on the honor roll, so that’s good.  Everything was going well.

Then my mom asked me to go auditions so I went. Then everything started happening. It was something that I liked so I kept doing it. It wasn’t like acting was a one-time thing. It was something that I really liked. 

To Quvenzhané Wallis: How did you like being on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float? 

JF: I saw that! 

QW: Will you chillax?!?

JF: You didn’t call me!

QW: I didn’t have any service! Ok, so it was really being in the parade and doing the dance routine was really fun but it was super cold and it started snowing!

One of the girls, the smallest one, Nicolette, a snowflake fell on her hair. I was like, ‘You have a snowflake in your hair, look! You have the perfect snowflake!’ Then I put it on my glove and it just melted. Then I kept doing the parade and it was really fun! 

To Quvenzhané Wallis: What were some of your favorite things about filming in New York City? Had you been here before? What kind of things did you like doing around town while you were here? 

QW: I had been here. It was really fun while filming because everyone on set was really nice.

WG: Who’s your favorite actor?

QW: So it was all really fun…

WG: No, no…who’s your favorite actor?

QW: So it was just really fun!…

JF: You know what? I’m out of here!

Did you take advantage of the city? Did you go to Dylan’s Candy Bar or the museums? I know you were really busy because you were working, but did you get to do any fun stuff while you were in New York?

QW: For acting class, we went to Dylan’s Candy Bar and we went on an adventure, like a scavenger hunt for acting.

So we went on a scavenger hunt, and he said to find a candy store. I kept seeing different ones and he was like, ‘Nope, not that one.’ Then we walked to Dylan’s Candy Bar and we walked to a whole bunch of other places. We also used the bikes (featured in the movie) because it would have been a long, long walk. 

What was your favorite music number? They all looked like so much fun!

QW: ‘I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here’ because it’s something that I wouldn’t be able to do at home. If I did I’d be in major trouble. It was also really fun working with Rose [Byrne] and doing the dance routine.

How did you prepare for the role of Annie? 

I did acting classes, dancing classes and singing lessons. It was just something that I really liked because I wasn’t a professional at it, but I liked singing and dancing at home before this.

[To Quvenzhané Wallis] I think you have a beautiful singing voice. Do you have any plans to do more of it in your career?

JF: Album!

QW: I would love to do another movie with singing. I would love to make another song or album.

WG: Who’s your favorite singer??

QW: So it would all be like…

WG: Like a singer who’s an older guy…?

QW: but it’s all really fun.

JF: This is crazy!

To Jamie Foxx: You’re a dad. You take all the things about fatherhood and you put them into this role where you have to be disconnected then become emotional. I’d love for you to talk about that. 

JF: Having young kids, having daughters. It prepares you for movies like this. That’s the emotions you get to. It was easy to get to that emotion because I have that experience. I have two girls. There was just a lot of fathering going on. 

Let me tell you, this was a fun interview, and it was pretty heartwarming to see how close the three have become through the making of Annie!

It’s crazy to me that I now feel like I have some real insight into the people behind the movie, and I hope that you feel like that, now too!

Be sure to read my Annie review to find out how much I loved the movie and why I think it’s definitely worth seeing!

Annie is now in theaters everywhere! Gather up your family and get your tickets now

My Interview with Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale from ANNIE

Annie 2014 review cameron Diaz Bobby CannavaleEarlier in December I went to the Annie press junket for Sony Pictures. It was a wonderful experience, and a highlight was the opportunity to interview both Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale!

annie 2014 review poster

I’ve said it before (and I don’t think I can stop tweeting about it!), I loved Annie! See my Annie review.

Cameron Diaz plays the role of Miss Hannigan, a cruel control freak of the foster home where Annie lives with several other girls. 

Bobby Cannavale is Guy, the aggressive political advisor to Will Stacks, who’s running for mayor. 

annie 2014 reviews camern diaz bobby cannavaleMy small group of bloggers at the interview had a wide variety of questions for both Diaz and Cannavale. They spoke about emotions, acting, child actors and so much more during the short amount of time we had with them!

Highlights from my interview with Cameron Diaz & Bobby Cannavale of Annie:

What was your favorite part of the movie? 

BC: I loved doing Easy Street. 

CD: Yeah. Easy Street. Bobby says that he has never danced before, but don’t believe him!

BC: Dancing does NOT come naturally for me.

CD: It does, though! I witnessed it.

BC: Well, it’s because it’s for the part. That’s the only way I could have done it. I’ve never been the kind of person to be like, “Let’s go dancing!” But for work it’s like gaining 100 pounds to play a guy who’s overweight. It’s for the part. And she’s the best partner. We were sympatico in the way we attacked it. Like sports or…

CD: Right. Very athletic, we were like, Let’s go! We were high-fiving.

BC: They kept adding stuff for us. That dance actually was a lot more simple when it started because we ended up getting it really quickly.

CD: They were like oh, you guys can do this!

BC: I also liked that number because for me, that’s almost the most natural musical number in the movie. We’re in a nightclub and there’s a band already playing. It sort of feels like the most natural setting to start dancing. That’s really why I did the part!

So are you ready for Dancing With the Stars?

BC: I’m not even ready to watch Dancing with the Stars?

[To CD] I read that your two biggest fears were heights and singing in front of people. How did you overcome that fear? 

CD: To overcome heights I jumped out of an airplane and scaled a 1000-foot face of a mountain…not at the same time, clearly! I cried the entire time doing both of them. Not unlike this experience.

On this I knew I’d have to perform as if I could sing. That was what was terrifying. I didn’t know what that voice would sound like. But I knew they would surround me with the best professionals to help me find my best voice.

There were lots of tears. Hyperventilating in the vocal booth. It was terrifying.

But the thing I’ve learned about fear is that you can’t run from it. If you run from fear it jumps on your back and takes you down. If you look at fear and you run towards it and jump on it then your chances are better that you’re going to win.

Do you feel that you’ve overcome both of those fears? 

CD: Yes!…No!

I don’t know what to write…

CD: [Laughing] I have now done them both but I’m still scared of heights and I’m still scared of singing in front of people with a voice that says I know how to perform. but it doesn’t mean I won’t do it again. I tell myself I can do it, because I’ve done it once.

What’s one of the life lessons someone should get out of the movie?

CD: In the original movie, Miss Hannigan was a spinster. She didn’t get married and she wasn’t validated. She wanted love. Because she didn’t have it she had to live a life of raising kids in an orphanage. She didn’t love herself because no one loved her. 

This Miss Hannigan is a comment towards today’s society about how we value ourselves. People spend all day long looking for likes and followers. This validates people. They take it as being loveable. 

We’re totally screwing ourselves up. We’re not learning that it’s self-love. You can’t validate yourself by fame or celebrity, which is what our society is obsessed with. If you’re not seen by millions of people they’re not loveable. So Miss Hannigan was a victim of that. She didn’t get her fame, so she believed she wasn’t loveable. She spent her life hating herself. In return treating those poor little girls the way she treats herself and she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way.

Until she realizes she’s worth loving, she can’t be kind to herself and she can’t be kind to others. 

I hope that people realize they don’t need fame, they need to love themselves for who they are not who they aren’t. 

BC: I like the song Annie sings, ‘Opportunity’. I always like the idea that anything is possible as long as you’re in the moment. This little girl teaches the people in her life how to do that. The movie reinforces that in a really nice way for kids today. 

[To BC] In the movie you get what you want by any means necessary. Are you like that in real life?

BC: Oh, I’m not. I’m just not that ambitious. Or if I am, I’m just not that naked about it. Guy just wears it on his sleeve.

To a fault, I think I might come across as seeming aloof because I’m terrified of seeming opportunistic. Guy is nothing like that.

But there’s all kinds of people. It’s easy to find people like that. Just turn on a news channel and see them in our political world. It works for some people, just not for me.  

[To BC] How did your experience raising a child in New York City affect how you looked at Annie

I did raise my son here. I was raised in New Jersey.

It’s incredible raising a kid in New York. On one hand, it’s the only thing they know, so they tend to grow up pretty fast. But there’s an opportunity every time you walk out your front door in New York City.

There are opportunities to be empathetic, to see all different kinds of people. Annie is definitely a product of the city that she grew up in. Whether she’s in a foster home or not, she’s still part of this beating heart of the city. 

What was your thought of taking the original Annie and coming into this Annie? 

BC: For me, I love that movie as well. I didn’t feel the need to go back and watch it, because the circumstances are just different. It’s just not the same time.

CD: We’re really making this version for kids who didn’t see the original Annie. We’re representing that generation. Those kids don’t label things the way we did when we were young. What the film does so well, what Will Gluck does so well, is  it takes all the things that people do know and love about the original film and capture it and bring it into a modern story. 

How was it working with Quvenzhané Wallis? 

CD: She’s a sweet girl. Sometimes you work with these kids and you’re like, How old are you?? Quvenzhané is just a girl. She’s an 11 year old. She’s age-appropriate. She’s not in some weird adult kind of world. She’s a little girl, and I appreciate that so much. I think she is owed being a kid. 

BC: It’s a pleasure not working with a professional kid actress. Quvenzhané is very open and I think that openness and that honesty is what comes across. She really is a kid. 

Annie opens in theaters on December 19, 2014. Gather up your family and get your tickets now

Thanks to Sony Pictures for flying me out to New York to participate in the press junket.