‘Annie’: 8,000 Girls Auditioned For the Starring Role, Including Sarah Jessica Parker

The story of Annie remains beloved to this day thanks to its timeless story about overcoming life’s obstacles and finding happiness on the darkest days. The 1982 film adaptation was the first large-scale exposure of the Annie story to a wider audience, and as a result, young female actors everywhere wanted in on the iconic red-haired role. One of the actors who was competing to play Annie was none other than future Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker.

Annie Cast
Geoffrey Holder, Carol Burnett, Aileen Quinn, Ann Reinking, Bernadette Peters and Albert Finney from “Annie” | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

There have been 3 ‘Annie’ movies and multiple stage productions

The Annie story is based on the comic strip series Little Orphan Annie, which followed the adventures of a young orphan girl and her dog as they get a new lease on life thanks to her adoptive father, Daddy Warbucks. The comics were first adapted into a Broadway musical in 1977 and included the timeless songs such as “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life.”

The 1982 Annie movie starred legendary actors such as Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, and Albert Finney, while Aileen Quinn played the iconic orphan character. In the years since then, there have been two more Annie movies that have featured the likes of Kathy Bates, Kristen Chenoweth, Jamie Foxx, and Cameron Diaz.

ANnie cast
Albert Finney, Aileen Quinn, Carol Burnett and others on stage in scene from the film ‘Annie’, 1982 | Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

RELATED: Carol Burnett Said This 1 Scene in ‘Annie’ Was ‘Total Overkill’

Sarah Jessica Parker played ‘Annie’ on Broadway

In the late 1970s, when Annie was still running on Broadway, a young actor named Sarah Jessica Parker took on the role of Annie. She played the character for countless performances and became a bona fide child star of the stage.

In the early ’80s, as Parker starred in Annie on Broadway, there were talks of adapting the stage show into a movie musical. Naturally, Parker was at the front of executives’ minds for the part.

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw stands on a boat during a season 3 episode of 'Sex and the City'
Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw | Getty ImagesS

Sarah Jessica Parker was 1 of 8,000 people who auditioned for ‘Annie’

Two years before the 1982 film version, actor Aileen Quinn was in the Broadway production of Annie as a “swing orphan,” meaning she was trained to play any of the orphans except Annie (who was played by Parker at the time). Auditions for the film began in 1980 and took an entire year. According to MentalFloss, nearly 8,000 girls auditioned for the role of Annie, and Parker was at the top of the list because of her experience in the role on stage.

The casting director had a clever way to speed the process along, according to the PBS documentary Lights, Camera, Annie!: the Annie hopefuls lined up and each girl sang a part of “Tomorrow,” with the next girl picking up where the last one left off.

Quinn got eight callbacks in total and the production team knew she would be perfect for the role. “I was completely in shock,” Quinn remembered of learning she had been cast. “I didn’t believe it until the casting agent showed me the production schedule, and I was scheduled to appear on the Today show at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. That’s when I believed it!”