Sandra Bullock was originally considered to play Miss Hannigan, but she declined the role, citing once how she "hates musicals and vows to never star in one." Cameron Diaz then signed on to replace Bullock.
The film was originally envisioned by Will Smith in 2011 as a star vehicle for his daughter Willow Smith with Jay Z playing Will Stacks; however, the film lingered in development, and by the time production was ready in 2013, Willow had aged too much to play Annie. Quvenzhané Wallis, just off her tremendous success with Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), was chosen to replace Willow for Annie while Jamie Foxx was chosen to replace Jay Z as Will Stacks.
Although due to be released just before Christmas, the movie was released online 3 weeks early by hackers. The hackers, known as The Guardians of Peace, hacked Sony in protest against the upcoming release of The Interview (2014). In all, four movies were released, expected to cost Sony millions of dollars in lost revenue from ticket sales. However, of the four, the online release of this one was expected to have the least impact: "Internet pirates are mostly twenty-something males," says Phil Contino, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. "That's obviously not who 'Annie' is aimed at."
This is the third motion picture adaptation of Strouse and Charnin's Annie. The first was director John Huston's original big-screen version (Annie (1982)), in which star Albert Finney did a wicked vocal impersonation of Huston. The second was Rob Marshall's well-regarded and more faithful adaptation (Annie (1999)).
Sony Pictures Entertainment, owner of Columbia Pictures, slated "Annie" for a December 19, 2014, release, where it would face big competition from an another film musical, Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods (2014), directed by Rob Marshall and made by Walt Disney Pictures. Rob Marshall and Walt Disney Pictures collaborated with Columbia Pictures on the successful and well-regarded Annie (1999) in 1999.
At a bar, Guy and Miss Hannigan see a band named "Leaping Lizards," a popular catchphrase from the Annie comic strip. Also the actress who played "Annie" in the 1982 musical version (Aileen Quinn) has a band with the same name.
In late 2014, Charles Strouse (the composer of the original musical's score) gave an interview to Vanity Fair in which he talked about what he liked and didn't like about this movie adaptation. One thing he didn't like was the fact that although Jay Z did consult Strouse in the initial stages of conceiving the remake, and though Strouse said he "was paid handsomely for my share of the rights," Strouse and the other original creators of the musical did not get to revise and update their own songs or write any of the new songs in the movie. Something Strouse did enthusiastically endorse about this movie version was the casting of Quvenzhané Wallis in the lead role (he called her performance "amazing") and, more generally, the idea of casting nonwhite actresses in the role--something he said he had been lobbying for since the first Broadway run of the show back in the 1970s.
When William Stacks takes Annie and her friends to a movie, the actors for said movie are named Andrea Alvin and Simon Goodspeed, which are nods to the original Broadway production. Andrea McArdle played Annie in the play's Broadway premiere at the Alvin Theatre. Goodspeed is the theater that Annie premiered at before Broadway.
When Stacks rescues Annie from the truck, the shot includes a building sign "Punjab Imports" (or similar). Punjab was a character in the strip and in Annie (1982) (played by Geoffrey Holder). He wore a turban and was probably a Sikh and added to the exotic, worldly aura of Daddy Warbucks.
In the film Bad Teacher (2011) Cameron Diaz is seen wearing an Orphan Annie wig. In both that film and this, her character has a bad attitude about children even though her job involves always being around children.
This movie's version of the song "It's the Hard-Knock Life" omits the original's line "You'll stay up till this dump shines like the top of the Chrysler Building," but the film later includes several aerial shots of the actual top of the Chrysler Building instead.
The girl in the first scene of the movie, giving her report, is likely meant to pay homage to the original Annie from 1982 (i.e. the red, curly hair and the red cardigan). This girl is Taylor Richardson who played Annie on Broadway.
In late 2014, Sony Pictures was the victim of a major hack of their computer systems in which confidential corporate information and several unreleased complete movies were posted for public consumption. Among reams of other information, DVD-quality downloads of this movie appeared online before its official cinematic release.
On the Second and Third Installments of the Austin Powers Trilogy, Doctor Evil performs his own renditions of Will Smith's "Just the Two of Us" and Jay Z's "It's a Hard Knock Life". Coincidentally, Will Smith and Jay Z co-produced Annie (2014) and "It's a Hard Knock Life" borrowed sound bites from Annie (1982).