In 1982 nine-year-old Aileen Quinn became world-famous after her joyous portrayal of the orphan Annie Warbucks. And as a result of that iconic role, the child actor’s distinctive red locks, adorable smile and freckled cheeks became engraved on the minds of millions.
Most of us first met Quinn in the 1982 film Annie, which in turn had been adapted from the Broadway musical version of the tale. But of course, that little girl is grown up now, and she understandably looks very different as a result. In fact, after decades of working on musicals, on movie sets and in classrooms, Quinn is hardly recognizable as the child star she once was.
The story of Annie concerns a little girl who moves from an orphanage that’s run by the evil Miss Hannigan – played in the movie by Carol Burnett. Annie then finds residence in a grand mansion owned by a billionaire named Oliver Warbucks, who’s brought to life on screen by Albert Finney. And there, the rich man helps the orphan track down her biological parents by offering a reward to whoever finds them. Nevertheless, this scheme attracts fraudsters.
In addition, the soundtrack to the movie did extremely well – going double platinum. And of the 15 songs included, Quinn sang ten of them, with two tracks, “Maybe” and “Dumb Dog,” being performed solo. Alongside that, the star released her debut album, Bobby’s Girl, that same year.
But while we know that it’s a hard-knock life and that the sun will come out tomorrow, there is a lot we don’t know. For example, how did Quinn first get the part of the orphan? In addition, what has she been up to since Annie – and what does she look like now?
Well, Quinn entered the world in June 1971 in Yardley, Pennsylvania, with the future star going on to attend the Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit, New Jersey. But before Quinn was cast in Annie, her mother, Helenann, who happened to work in showbiz herself, had introduced her to acting and singing.
Quinn’s acting journey began, in fact, when she landed a part in a local theater production of Annie Get Your Gun. As many know, however, this musical is not related to the hit movie in which she would go on to star; instead, it tells the tale of a real-life sharpshooter named Annie Oakley. And from there, Quinn continued with community theater until she finally got an agent.
Before the age of nine, then, Quinn was already blossoming as an actress. And while still very young, she landed a minor part in the 1981 David Steinberg movie Paternity and started to work in New York City. The rising star also began appearing in television commercials before bagging the role of a “swing orphan” – or an understudy – in the Broadway production of Annie.
Interestingly, though, while Quinn was playing a “swing orphan,” she crossed paths with none other than Sarah Jessica Parker, who had been playing Annie among other roles on Broadway. Quinn told Yahoo! Entertainment in 2012, “The switch-over was pretty close, because I got invited to [Parker’s] 12th birthday party. So, I did meet Sarah way back then, but it was while Allison Smith was Annie.”
And it was during Quinn’s work on the Broadway production of Annie that she started to audition for the film. But despite what some may think about child actors landing gigs, it wasn’t easy. The director of the movie, John Huston, unsurprisingly wanted to find the perfect actress for the part, and the intense audition process took around a year.
In fact, Quinn competed against more than 8,000 kids for the part – and completed a total of eight auditions – before the final three hopefuls were narrowed down. Then, after a screen test had been carried out, a search coordinator named Garrison True gave her the thrilling news that she had been tapped for the life-changing role.
Quinn reminisced about the pivotal moment in her interview with Yahoo! Entertainment. “[True] said, ‘We found our Annie,’” the star recalled. “And I said, ‘Oh my gosh. Who is it?’ and he said, ‘It’s you! You’re going to be on the Today show tomorrow.’ I was in shock.”
So, let’s fast-forward several decades. What does Quinn look like now? Well, for starters, those curly locks are no more. The actress actually donned a wig for her part in the movie, you see. She now in fact has long, wavy hair – still with a hint of red – and a gorgeous, matured face.
Plus, while we often hear about child stars going off the rails in later life, this was not the case for Quinn. In fact, as an adult, she went on to work a number of different jobs. These included teaching various subjects and singing in a band as well as directing musicals and acting on stage and in movies.
That said, Quinn did experience some strange moments as a child star. She told WATN-TV, for example, that her best friend had once asked for her signature. But Quinn being her down-to-earth self, she was shocked by the request and replied, “Amanda! Don’t. I’m not going to sign an autograph. Let’s go play Barbie!”
Of course, Quinn has fond memories of her time as Annie – and she even kept in contact with some of her castmates. For example, even though Carol Burnett had portrayed the unlikable Miss Hannigan on screen, Quinn told Yahoo! Entertainment that in reality her co-star had been like a mother figure on set. And in fact the two actresses still see each other to this day, enjoying dinners together and catching up after shows.
What’s more, it seems that Quinn also formed a bond with co-star Albert Finney, who played Oliver. And she recounted a humorous anecdote involving the actor to Yahoo! Entertainment. “One of my favorite memories of [Finney] is [him] learning to really sing for the first time,” the star said. “He did that beautiful version of ‘Maybe.’”
Quinn continued, “As [Finney] was taking singing lessons on the set, I can remember him with a cigar out of his mouth and going, ‘La la la la la la la,’ pause, ‘La la la la la la la.’” She also spoke of how Finney had mastered tap dancing by putting bottle tops beneath his shoes, adding, “He was, like, in it to win it – so adorable.”
In addition, Quinn has also spoken about her experience of acting with dog Sandy in Annie. She told Playbill of her canine co-star, “Besides the fact he had to lick my face on cue… it was really fun working with him.” And interestingly, several otterhounds were actually used to portray the orphan’s furry sidekick, although the main pooch was apparently named Bingo.
Plus, as we know, Annie took off and became a global sensation. Quinn’s portrayal of the eponymous orphan won her the Best Actress honor at the Youth in Film Awards, too, as well as two Golden Globe nods. Not only that, but the role also put the child star on a path to further work.
However, not everyone praised Quinn’s talent. And the actress still remembers a particularly bizarre comment that she received from film critic Gene Siskel. “[Siskel] said, ‘I think those freckles were painted on,’” she told Yahoo! Entertainment. “And if you could see me right now in person, they were definitely not painted on. I’m a freckled girl; I’m very Irish.”
What’s more, Quinn’s turn as Annie even earned her ridicule. In 1983, for instance, she won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Said parody awards are booby prizes intended to highlight movies and portrayals that are perceived to be embarrassing.
Yet while Quinn was initially set up to reprise her role in any sequels to Annie, plans for follow-ups ultimately fell through. There was, however, a 2014 film remake of the Broadway musical, which debuted to largely negative reviews and earned itself a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Remake.
And upon hearing the news of the 2014 reboot, which had been produced by Jay-Z and Will Smith, Quinn said that she was “dying to see it.” She explained to Yahoo! Entertainment, “I think it’s really cool. It will be interesting to see how gritty they want to get.”
After Annie, meanwhile, Quinn was still in contract with Columbia Pictures. Yet this state of affairs didn’t stop her from appearing on stage as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Kim in Bye, Bye Birdie, Jenny in Shenandoah and, of course, the lovable orphan in subsequent stage productions of Annie.
And following the wild success of Annie’s soundtrack, Columbia Records went on to release Quinn’s own album, Bobby’s Girl. The collection of songs made its debut shortly after the release of the film in 1982, becoming available on LP and cassette. For its part, the album includes ten pop tracks and features Quinn on the cover.
Then, four years later, Quinn appeared as protagonist Princess Zora in The Frog Prince, although the musical fairy tale, which aired on the Disney Channel, received modest ratings. When she was 18, however, the star decided to take a break from the world of showbiz and instead focus on education.
And Quinn recalled her decision to step back from acting in a 2017 interview with the website Her. There, she said, “I had been under contract for so long to make other Annie movies that never happened. So, by the time I was 16 or 17, and my contract was officially up, and I could do other things, then it was kind of past the point.”
The Annie star continued in her interview, “It was kind of like, ‘Who are you again?’ So, I decided to get a really good education – especially with my mom being teacher.” And the choice seemingly paid off; it’s one that Quinn maintains she is extremely “glad” she made.
Quinn went on to live life away from the limelight, then, by enrolling at Drew University in Madison, NJ. During an exchange program, the bilingual student also lived with a family in Chile for half a year – an experience she has since described as hugely rewarding.
In 1994 Quinn graduated from college with a degree in Spanish and a minor in political science. And while the former child star went on to find work as a translator after that, she ultimately decided that it was time to get back into acting once again. Subsequently, she went on to appear as Bette in a production of the stage musical Oliver!
From there, Quinn went on to travel around the United States, playing parts in three major Broadway shows. This five-year journey saw her appear in roles such as Tootles and Jane in Peter Pan, Chava in Fiddler on the Roof and Annette in Saturday Night Fever.
Next, Quinn journeyed across the Atlantic to London, England, where the singer and actress performed in productions of As You Like It and Twelfth Night at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. But despite this lengthy stint spent treading the boards, Quinn ultimately returned once again to film and TV.
In 2004, for instance, Quinn appeared as the host of a children’s educational sitcom called Generation Gap. The interactive TV show aired on PBS, and it aimed to equip kids with the skills to help them cope in certain challenging situations.
Later, between 2006 and 2010, Quinn acted in various independent movies. These included 30 and Multiple Sarcasms – a movie starring Mira Sorvino and Timothy Hutton, in which Quinn plays the minor role of a school secretary. In 2014 she also appeared in two episodes of The Comeback Kids.
Outside of Quinn’s career on camera, meanwhile, she kept busy with her passion for education. And in 2009 the star earned an honorary degree from Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ. There, she also became an assistant professor of theater studies.
And the fact that Quinn ended up teaching theater at Monmouth University could be seen as fate. That’s because it’s the very same place where the 1982 Annie movie was filmed. Indeed, Jersey City, NJ, has seemingly been the stage for core parts of the actress’ life.
You see, Quinn has also been involved in other areas of education in Jersey City. She once worked at Hudson Catholic Regional High School, for instance, teaching a number of subjects that included theater, dance and her second language of Spanish.
But these days, Quinn has her own music troupe. That’s right: the performer has put her talents to good use by forming her own band named Aileen Quinn and The Leapin’ Lizards. Interestingly, she met the other members of the group through one of her neighbors, as they had heard the star’s beautiful singing from her home.
And in 2015 Aileen Quinn and The Leapin’ Lizards released their first album, Spin Me, which features ten songs – including the intriguingly titled “Mama Didn’t Raise You Right” and “When All Hell Breaks Loose.” The band are now working on their follow-up record – and we can’t wait to see what Quinn does next.