At age 11, Aileen Quinn was tapped to play the coveted role of Little Orphan Annie in John Huston’s big screen adaption of the Tony-winning musical Annie, sharing the screen with Broadway veterans Carol Burnett, Albert Finney, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters. Now, 30 years after the film’s 1982 release and days before the Broadway revival begins previews at the Palace Theatre, Annie is back in a sing-along Blu-ray, jam-packed with fun extras. To commemorate the anniversary and the Blu-ray release, Broadway.com caught up with Quinn to get the scoop on making the movie, find out what she’s been up to in the decades since, and hear her thoughts on the upcoming Broadway revival.
Can you believe it’s been 30 years since you played Annie? What’s it like to revisit the film now?
No, I can't! It’s so funny: When I hear "30th anniversary," it feels like it was yesterday. Just recently I got to see it on the big screen and I was like, “Oh my gosh!” I turned to mom and said, “Wow, I was really working with the best of the best.”
Did any scenes make you emotional?
I was laughing at Bernadette [Peters] trying to drive a stick shift—this New York City girl was having a lot of trouble with that [laughs]. And when Albert [Finney] sang “Maybe,” I got a little emotional. It's such a classic story, and realizing how great the actors were and how lucky I was to have worked with them really just blows my mind.
What is your most distinct memory of the filming?
I have so many, but I always talk about Albert because we spent so much time together. He’s so funny and such a nice guy. I remember sitting in the back of the Duesenberg and him tickling me under the knees between takes to keep me awake. I remember him taking singing lessons for the first time—puffing his cigar and just singing. So many funny and kind memories of him and Carol [Burnett].
What was being on set with Carol like?
She was like a mother figure to me. She would help me do my homework on set, cover the hole when I was climbing the bridge and just protect me. She was so kind.
What was life after Annie like for you?
I was still in that Annie phase for the next two years because of all the promotion [13 countries, six continents]. I was under contract for seven years to make more Annie movies, but they never materialized. I got to have a normal high school and a normal life outside of Hollywood. That’s when I started to delve into theater because I was under contract and could only take regional theater gigs. It’s when I got to really to grow up as an actress.
You say you’re a New York girl at heart. Any Broadway aspirations or roles you’d dying to play?
There are definitely roles I have in mind. One of these days in the next 10 years, I will play Evita. I don’t know when or where, but I love Evita, especially with all my Latin and Spanish studies. It’s a very demanding role but I’d love to play it. As far as new theater, there’s a show I’m working on in Los Angeles that hopes to get to Broadway, maybe in the spring. It’s a bluegrass musical called Paradise, and it’s very funny. It's kind of in the direction of The Book of Mormon, slightly mocking right-wing Christians and reality TV. It’s a bunch of crazy characters in a little southern town. They have a cute little sassy southern belle Miss Luanne for me to play. So well see what happens with that.
Speaking of Broadway, Annie begins again on Broadway on October 3. Do you have any advice for Lilla Crawford, the young girl about to take on this role?
She should just have fun and savor the moment. Some of my fondest memories are being on Broadway at age eight [in Annie and Peter Pan].
Are you going to go see the revival?
I’m hoping to. Even though I’m in LA, I’m going to New York for Christmas, and I would like to take both my niece and godchild. It would be so cool to see it through their eyes.
Let’s talk about your band, the Leapin’ Lizards. I loved the demo on your site. What will your upcoming album be like?
It’s in the rockabilly style. We are a mix of Brian Setzer swing, with blues and country mixed in there. In the spring or summer we want to tour with the songs we have now and hopefully have an album out by the fall of 2013. I love this style —it’s like the rebellious side of the 50s and 60s. It’s still sweet but with a little edge.
To hear more of Quinn’s 'Annie' memories, check out the Blu-ray bonus feature “My Hollywood Adventure with Aileen Quinn.”