Wallis is joined in the cast by Jamie Foxx, who plays an updated Daddy Warbucks, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale.
The backlash has been roiling ever since the first movie trailer was released March 5.
The origins of the character go back to the 1920s. Author Harold Gray created Annie as a comic strip and it debuted in the New York Daily News in 1924. Titled “Little Orphan Annie,” it told the story of a plucky orphan who finds a benefactor in “Daddy Warbucks,” a rich industrialist with a heart.
Gray got his inspiration from “Little Orphant Annie” an 1885 poem by James Whitcomb Riley. The comic strip became part of American culture during the Great Depression and was vote the most popular in 1937.
The strip led to a radio show in 1930 and film adaptations in 1932 and 1938. The Broadway musical Annie debuted in 1977 and Sarah Jessica Parker famously played the role. The theater production inspired a 1982 film. The musical was revived on Broadway in 1997.
In every instance Annie was white. Wallis is the first black child to essay the role, but she isn’t the first to spark a racial controversy.
African-American actress Nell Carter was tapped to play Mrs. Hannigan in the 1997 Broadway revival, but a white actress from a previous run was shown in television commercials. Carter initially claimed the move was racially motivated, but later backed off the charge.
She was eventually replaced by Sally Struthers.
Rapper Jay-Z and actor Will Smith are producing the latest film version. Smith’s daughter Willow Smith was originally slatted to play Annie, but dropped out of the film.
The film, set in modern day New York City, will hit theaters Dec. 19 during the holiday season.
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