An African-American ‘Annie’ And Black Fatherhood

I approach remakes with a healthy distrust, but for reasons of policy and politics, I’m actually fairly intrigued by the prospects of the proposed remake of Annie. The project on the table sounds kind of deeply strange and wonderful, if it happens. Will Smith is apparently negotiating with Emma Thompson to adapt a screenplay musical that would have Willow Smith in the starring role. I say wonderful because I think Thompson’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is one of the best expansions on and cleaning up of a text ever (not to mention her equally marvelous performance in it). But I am also wondering how her very British sensibility will translate to a story that’s American and ethnic in its origins, and that with Smith behind it, might require a very different urban and racial sensibility. At the same time, I’d really love to see a black Daddy Warbucks. Jay-Z, of course, already has his audition reel in:

But more importantly, since Annie‘s supposed to be a universal American story, I would really like to see a simple, uncomplicated statement that African-Americans, and particularly black men, can be the vehicles for that story. If we can have Jay-Z in gruff mogul mode having his heart melted by a gawky, adorable Willow Smith without having a debate about the state of black fatherhood, or hedging his right to parent her in any way, I think there would be something lovely about that.