David Begelman, who brought the stage show to Columbia Pictures' attention, was originally intended to produce the film. After Begelman forged Cliff Robertson's signature on a check, the creators of the stage show refused to sell the rights to the studio if Begelman was producer. Ray Stark took the job, even though he didn't like the original Broadway show.
Steve Martin was offered the role of Rooster. He turned it down when he heard he would be working alongside Bernadette Peters. They were breaking up at the time, and Steve felt it would be too painful to work with her for several months.
In the play, Grace Farrell brought the adoption papers to the orphanage. After the film script had Oliver Warbucks do it, Carol Burnett and Albert Finney lobbied the songwriters for a song to sing together to flesh out the only meeting between Warbucks and Hannigan. Their duet, "Sign," was written in two days.
Daddy Warbucks' mansion was built in 1929 by Hubert Parson, the president of F.W. Woolworth. He called it Shadow Lawn. It is now Woodrow Wilson Hall, owned by Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ.
In 2003, while on the NPR program "Fresh Air," Carol Burnett told interviewer Terry Gross that after she thought her filming on "Annie" was all done, she had a plastic surgery procedure on her chin that significantly changed the appearance of her lower face from what it had been during shooting. But after the surgery, the producer Ray Stark called her back in for a re-shoot of part of the "Easy Street" number. Burnett joked to Gross that her Miss Hannigan went into a closet in her office with one chin and emerged, two months later, with a different one.
The songs "Dumb Dog," "Sandy," "Let's Go To The Movies," "We Got Annie," and "Sign" were written expressly for the film. The songs from the original play that were dropped were "NYC", "We'd Like To Thank You, Herbert Hoover", "You Won't Be An Orphan For Long," "Annie," and "A New Deal For Christmas". The last four songs are not in either the film or TV adaptations.
Production designer Dale Hennesy died in the middle of production. Gene Callahan agreed to finish the film, but refused to have his name listed in the credits, giving the credit to the late Dale Hennesy.
In the comic strip, Oliver Warbucks made his fortune through the sale of weapons and ammunition during the Great War, hence the name "war bucks". He was originally a guest character, but he was so popular that Harold Gray brought him back as a regular.
When Miss Hannigan says, "Wrap it up, I'm listening to Helen Trent," she is referring to "The Romance of Helen Trent," a radio soap opera about a middle-aged woman seeking romance. It ran from 1933 to 1960.
Annie was created by Chicago Tribune cartoonist Harold Gray. She was originally intended to be a boy, Little Orphan Otto, but her gender was changed at the request of Gray's editor, Captain Joseph Medill Patterson, to create a reference to the 1885 James Whitcomb Riley poem "Little Orphan Annie".
The address of the Warbucks mansion is 987 Fifth Avenue, which does not exist. If it did exist, it would be at the corner of 80th Street and Fifth Avenue. Across the street, at 1000 Fifth Avenue, is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The stage version of Annie ends at Christmas. The film changed it to the 4th of July because it was shot during the summer, and getting enough fake snow to cover the grounds of the New York mansion was far too expensive.
The only characters in the film that were in the "Little Orphan Annie" strip were Annie, Daddy Warbucks, Sandy, Punjab, and the Asp. The last two were not in the play. When Martin Charnin began work on the musical, the characters were cut because he didn't want any fantasy or magic. They were reinstated in order to incorporate more elements from the strip.
Reportedly, Mick Jagger keenly sought the role of Rooster Hannigan. This was at least the second role sought by Mick Jagger which ultimately went to Tim Curry, the earlier one being Dr. Frank-n-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Additionally, both actors had been passed over for the lead role in A Clockwork Orange (1971).
The woman who ran Annie's orphanage in the original strip was called Miss Asthma. This name was initially used in the musical for the woman who runs Annie's orphanage, but it was changed to Miss Hannigan (leading to the popular assumption that "Miss Hannigan" was the name used in the original strip).
The top three candidates for the title role were Aileen Quinn, Robin Ignico, who played Duffy, and Angela Lee Sloan, who was told she looked too much like Quinn to play a lead orphan, but was offered a smaller role. In the "Hard-Knock Life" song sequence, Lee is a sleeping orphan.
The original stage play premiered at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre) in April 1977, ran for 2,377 performances, and closed January 2, 1983. It won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, on which the screenplay was based.
Even though Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin were hired to write new songs, they and Thomas Meehan were not allowed on set or to talk to any of the cast members until they threatened to tell the New York Times.
The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas, Madison Square Garden and situated in the Rockefeller Center in New York City. It's nick-name is "The Showplace of the Nation".
A more elaborate sequence for the song "Easy Street" was planned and shot, involving Miss Hannigan and Rooster's fantasies of a privileged life, but it was replaced with the less elaborate version set entirely in the orphanage. Lights, Camera, Annie! (1982) revealed that the first verse of the song was recorded and presumably filmed, but cut from the final version to keep the running time down. The documentary also reveals a new verse to the final reprise of "Maybe" that is in no other version, but was ultimately cut.
The song "We Got Annie" was included in an early draft of the stage musical, but it was dropped as several revisions were made before the show ever reached the stage. "We Got Annie" was meant to be sung by the downtrodden customers at a local coffee shop where Annie worked cleaning tables.
The story for the musical 'Annie' is an original one. Nothing from the original comic strip could have been used in the musical. The story written for the musical caused some confusion about Annie's origin in the original comic strip. The storybooks that came out at the time of the movie's premiere are all sequels to the plot of the film.
Additional/alternate scenes from many of the film's musical numbers (including "Easy Street," "Let's Go to the Movies," "I Don't Need Anything But You" and the final reprise of "Maybe") were featured in the making-of TV special Lights, Camera, Annie! (1982).
Producer Ray Stark shortened the Tomorrow number, and conflated it with the Tomorrow Reprise, because he felt the number was "corny". This infuriated Martin Charnin the creator of the original Broadway show, and it's part of why he hates the movie.
There was a sequel to the Broadway show called "Annie 2: Miss Hannigans Revenge" which is considered one of the biggest bombs on Broadway ever. It was eventually reworked into the off Broadway production "Annie Warbucks" which is still performed regionally although there's never been a Broadway version.
Ray Stark said of the film, "This is the film I want on my tombstone." In his negative review of the film, Time Magazine's Richard Corliss wrote "Funeral services are being held at a theater near you." Stark died four days after Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released a pan-and-scan DVD of the film in Region 1, although they had released a widescreen version in 2000.
Steve Martin was offered the role of Rooster, but he was breaking up with Bernadette Peters at the time who was playing Lilly St. Regis, Rooster's girlfriend, and he did not think he could handle being so intimate on a set with her for 3 months.
John Huston's only musical as a director. He was asked to direct Doctor Dolittle (1967) but turned it down. At one point, he was considered for the role of Daddy Warbucks. He was turned down because he was too old.
Screen rights for the stage show were sold in 1978 for $9.5 million (approximately $34.4 million in 2014 dollars), breaking the record set when Warner Bros. paid $5.5 million for the screen rights to My Fair Lady (1964). Paramount Pictures made Popeye (1980) to make up for being outbid.
The "autocopter" is a Bell Helicopter H-47, an early model helicopter made famous by its use in the Korean War and seen in the movie and series M*A*S*H to transport combat casualties. The iconic bubble canopy has been removed and replaced with the autocopter's passenger compartment and the capsule shaped fuel tanks above that compartment have been given boxy covers, but the helicopter is easily identifiable by its frame work tail.
Martin Charnin, the creator of the original Broadway Annie, hated the 1981 film. He thought Annie was too cute, Hannigan should not have been played as a drunk and Warbucks should not have been played by an Englishman. He also didn't like the 1999 Disney version or the 2012 Broadway production either.
Before Ray Stark became producer, stage librettist Thomas Meehan wrote an early draft of the screenplay, and stage choreographer Peter Gennaro was to have recreated his Broadway choreography. It was Stark's idea to hire Carol Sobieski to restructure the film's plot.
When Oliver Warbucks (Albert Finney) says, "Wait! There's something interesting in that woman's smile. I might learn to like her. Hang her in my bathroom." in reference to the Mona Lisa, it's a reference to the real history of the painting. After Leonardo da Vinci died ownership of the Mona Lisa passed to King Francis I of France, who had her hung in his bathing room.
Two of the actors in the movie have featured in the James Bond film franchise. Geoffrey Holder, who played the Indian manservant-bodyguard Punjab, had played Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die (1973). Annie (1982) was released in the year before Octopussy (1983) which was extensively set and shot in India. Albert Finney, who plays bald-headed Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, later appeared as Kincaid in Skyfall (2012). One of the most famous Bond villain characters is the bald-headed characterization of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who has appeared in the Bond movies You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and unofficially as well at the start of For Your Eyes Only (1981).
Randall Kleiser was supposed to direct this but had to back out because of post production issues with "Blue Lagoon". Though John Huston was a legend at this point, much loved by everyone, he had never directed a musical before. He proved to be a bad choice, as " Annie" was a critical and box office failure.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The lines "God dammit!" and "Come back here, ya Goddamned kid!" were included specifically to get a PG rating. The studio believed only parents with small children would see a G-rated live-action movie.