In 2012, Quvenzhané Wallis bounded onto the scene and stole our hearts in the award-winning Beasts of the Southern Wild, a role that earned her an Oscar nod for Best Actress—the youngest nominee in history. Now, nearly three years later, she’s back, and from our ESSENCE magazine cover story, it’s clear that she has stolen the heart of her Annie co-star, Jamie Foxx.
“I don’t think we could have done this movie unless Quvenzhané came along,” Foxx told ESSENCE‘s Pamela K. Johnson. “It’s sort of like she’s tailor-made for the role in a sense. I would challenge you to find a girl who personifies Annie better than Quvenzhané does.”
And personify she does. The 11-year-old superstar expertly recreates the 1924 comic strip character, though the storyline and characters have been updated, revamping the storyline to take place in modern-day New York City.
Director Will Gluck also recognizes that it is the pint-sized star that carries the movie.
“I was lucky to be able to cast Quvenzhané,” he said in the interview. “How many times does an age-appropriate girl, nominated for an Academy Award, who can sing and act come along?”
The film has been in the works for years—so long, in fact, that Quvenzhané was originally too young to play the role. There were whispers that Willow Smith would be playing the title character; however, the youngest Smith child eventually bowed out of the role. By the time production was beginning, Quvenzhané was old enough.
All parties involved in the movie feel that Quvenzhané was the right choice. Foxx, who plays her potential adoptive father, said that he wanted to embody a father figure for Quvenzhané in both the movie and in real life.
“Here’s a guy who wants to be mayor, doing anything he can…” Foxx said. “He’s superfly, superrich, germaphobic, and then this girl softens him, makes him fall in love with life.”
Be sure to fall in love with Annie when it hits theaters tomorrow.