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Quvenzhané Wallis to play title role in "Annie" movie

By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nine-year-old Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis will play the title role in "Annie," Sony's Columbia Pictures announced on Sunday.

"Annie" is due to hit theaters in 2014 during the winter holiday season, and is based on the stage play about an orphan's adventures in finding her family and a better life while overcoming the schemes of orphanage mistress Miss Hannigan.

President of production at Columbia Pictures Hannah Minghella expressed confidence in Wallis' talent and star power.

"With the recent Academy Award nomination and critical acclaim, Quvenzhané Wallis is a true star and we believe her portrayal as Annie will make her a true worldwide star," she said.

"She is an extraordinary young talent with an amazing range, not only as an actress but as a singer and dancer, and we can't wait for audiences to further discover her."

Among the film's co-producers are Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. Carter's 1998 Grammy-winning album "Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life" contains a hip-hop version of "It's a Hard Knock Life," a song from the original Broadway musical "Annie."

The hit musical was first made into a film starring Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan in 1982. A made-for-TV version with Kathy Bates in the same role aired on ABC in 1999, and earned two Emmy awards.

Wallis is the youngest actress to ever be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. She was nominated for her role as Hushpuppy in indie drama "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which also earned a nod for Best Picture. "Beasts" is Wallis' first acting job.

Among her other firsts, she will also be the first African-American actress to play Annie, who has been traditionally portrayed as a freckle-faced redhead.

Later this year, she will star alongside Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen's historical drama "Twelve Years a Slave," based on the book by Solomon Northup.

(Editing by Eric Walsh and Jackie Frank)

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