Although Quvenzhané Wallis does an admirable portrayal of “Little Orphan Annie” in the new, thoroughly modern Annie movie, most of us will always imagine the iconic character as she was portrayed by Aileen Quinn in the 1982 classic.
At the time, Aileen beat out 8,000 other hopefuls for the lead role in John Huston’s film, which was the first Annie movie based on the Broadway show.
“If there is a perfect 10 in the movies today, it may be Aileen Quinn, a little girl who seems as though she was born to be just that age,” Anna Quindlen wrote for The New York Times in 1982. “She will be 11 in a month, and right now, with her turned-down white anklets, turned-up snub nose, hailstorm of freckles and chubby cheeks, Aileen is quite simply, the epitome of kid: friendly, full of fidgets, with a patina of precocity over a personality that is pure child.”
So, where is Aileen Quinn now? After earning two Golden Globes nominations for the performance, Aileen did voice work for Disney, starred in 1986’s The Frog Prince and worked in regional theater shows. At 18, she turned her attention to studying at Drew University in New Jersey. She graduated with honors and a Spanish degree in 1994 and then decided to get back into show business with three national Broadway tours.
She also works as an adjunct professor at Monmouth University — which is coincidentally where parts of Annie were filmed.
“I feel a sense of serenity there,” Aileen told Chicago’s WGNTV in 2012. “It is surreal. But, the first time that I went up the steps to fill out paperwork for the administration, it was so strange to walk up the steps and you’re going for business and I was tap dancing and bopping around those steps.”
In addition to teaching and performing, Aileen established a rockabilly band that pays tribute to her most memorable role with its name, Aileen Quinn and the Leapin’ Lizards.
Now 43, Aileen said she still gets recognized — or sort of recognized — from her childhood. She explained in 2012, “I get someone across the room where I just get a little, like, ‘I know you…'”
BONUS The Broadway version of Annie was also made into a 1999 TV movie starring Alicia Morton.
After making a handful of other TV movies, Alicia moved back to her home-state of Louisiana, where she teaches drama at a high school and is preparing to get married, Playbill reported this month.