“Annie” has a long history as a New York-set musical, but this new version of beloved story is the first to actually be filmed on the streets of the city.
Director Will Gluck, who grew up on 116th Street on the west side, didn’t want to show the New York City you see in romantic comedies, with shots of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.
“I want to show the New York City of where people actually lived,” Gluck says. “That’s why the opening scene, where Annie runs through the streets, hops on the subway, gets on a Citi Bike, gets on another subway, runs out ? as we all know growing up in New York City, that’s what you do and that’s our world. That’s our Main Street.”
Gluck, best known for his film “Easy A,” was a stickler for realism in his portrayal of the city, which you really only can get from hitting the streets. Anywhere you point your camera, he explains, you get a free built-in backdrop, people walking around, cars coming by — all the things you’d have to create if you filmed elsewhere.
“In New York City, it’s all real and happening,” he says. “Cars are coming by, it’s raining, people come with umbrellas, and it’s just people are living their lives, and I really wanted in this movie to feel like this movie is happening while the world is going on.”
The film felt so real at times that people were mistaking the sets for real places, Gluck says, including a bodega built on a set at 126th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.
“People kept coming in, constantly, thinking it was a real bodega,” he says. “We had to have people there going, ‘It’s not real, it’s not real.’ But it looks real, so people thought we were crazy.”
One of the most impressive sets in the film is Jamie Foxx’s character Will Stacks’ palatial apartment, which was built on the 58th floor of 4 World Trade Center.
“We got to shoot in that building when it wasn’t done yet,” Gluck says. “We built this entire apartment in World Trade, a beautiful apartment. I think we had the best view in the city with that deck out there.”
The film production was all over the city, from Cafe Cluny in the West Village to extensive helicopter scenes filmed around the skyscrapered skyline. One of Gluck’s goals was to try and show some parts of the city that aren’t usually filmed, like a Subway underpass in Queens where Stacks grew up.
“I really tried to find off the beaten path,” Gluck says. ,”We really tried to find places that had not been shot.”
Of course, while the Big Apple offers a lot of advantages, it also comes with some negatives, including ruined shoots when someone comes and screams “Jamie Foxx,” Gluck says.
“The hard part is people don’t care that you’re shooting a movie,” he continues. “If you’re shooting something down the street and someone’s got to go to the store, they don’t care, they’re going to cross the camera. They’re not going to stop because someone tells them to stop. Which I respect, because Hollywood thinks that we’re No. 1. New York lets you know that you’re not even 15.”