Quvenzhané Wallis is set to grace movie screens across America starting Friday in her Golden Globe-nominated role in a remake of the classic film Annie. In the original film, released in 1982, Little Orphan Annie was a curly-coiffed redhead played by Aileen Quinn. Of course, this isn’t the first time a black actor has portrayed a white character on-screen or on the stage. Take a look at other actors who have changed the faces of their characters.
Marvel Comics’ Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., is white in the comic books. In 1998 the film Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. starred David Hasselhoff. Ten years later, Jackson appeared as Fury in Iron Man, the first of his nine-picture deal in the Marvel cinematic-universe franchise. He has appeared in Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers and several other Marvel pictures. His next appearance as Fury will be in 2015’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
This September, Palmer became Broadway’s first black Cinderella in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. “I feel like the reason I’m able to do this is definitely because Brandy did it on TV,” Palmer told the Associated Press. “In me doing this, it shows everybody that everything is possible.” Palmer took over the role after Laura Osnes, Carly Rae Jepsen and Paige Faure. The young actress will continue in the role, opposite The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Leakes as her stepmother, until Jan. 3.
Norwood portrayed a beautiful Cinderella in ABC’s version of Cinderella in 1997. And who better to play her fairy godmother than Houston?
Jordan caused a bit of an uproar when it was announced that he’d been cast as Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four reboot. Although a few critics weren’t feeling the choice, he told the Hollywood Reporter that Chris Evans, who played Storm in the 2005 version of the film, gave Jordan his stamp of approval. Speaking to the New York Daily News, Evans said of Jordan, “It’s exciting to see what he’s going to do, because I know he’s going to reinvent it in a way that I could never have imagined.” The Fantastic Four is expected to premiere during the summer of 2015.
In Marvel comic books, Heimdall is portrayed as a white Norse god. Elba portrayed the character in the live-action films Thor and Thor: The Dark World and is expected to co-star in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. It is slated to premiere in May 2015.
Stephen King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” was adapted for the screen in 1994 as The Shawshank Redemption. In the story, Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding is described as a white Irishman and is the go-to guy to get prisoners anything they need from the outside world. Freeman beat out Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman for the role in the film.
In the Men in Black comics, both agents are portrayed as white, black-suit-and-tie-wearing agents. But Smith took on the role of Agent J in the live-action film that was released in 1997 and continued in the role for the Men in Black trilogy. Emails that were leaked in December suggest that Sony Pictures plans to do a crossover film involving the Men in Black and Jump Street franchises, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sony expects to release the film as soon as 2016.
Kingpin, also known as Wilson Fisk, is a white supervillain in the Marvel Comics universe. But that didn’t stop casting directors from picking Duncan to take on the role in 2003’s Daredevil. After Duncan’s death in 2012, Marvel penned this heartfelt letter.
Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film Jackie Brown is based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard. The book follows the story of Jackie Burke, a blond flight attendant who smuggles money into America from a gunrunner in Mexico. Tarantino, however, pictured Burke as a black woman named Jackie Brown and cast Grier in the lead role.
District Attorney Harvey Dent was a white villain in DC Comics’ Batman series. However, in Tim Burton’s live-action 1989 film Batman, Williams portrayed the character. He was set to play Two-Face, Dent’s alter ego, in the sequel, too, but was replaced by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Returns. “I had hoped that I would have done Two-Face,” Williams said at Comic Con in 2013. “But it changed hands before then … so they took a different direction with that.”
In 2008 producer Stephen C. Byrd brought an all-black cast to the Great White Way in his rendition of Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The production starred James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Terrence Howard and Anika Noni Rose and was directed by Debbie Allen.
Four years after the revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Stephen C. Byrd decided to bring an all-black cast to Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker headlined.
Of course, the original Wizard of Oz film in 1939 featured Judy Garland with her ruby-red slippers. But the all-black cast in 1978’s version featured Diana Ross—with silver slippers—as Dorothy, Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow. Richard Pryor also played the perfect phony Wizard.
In 2012 Lifetime produced a remake of Steel Magnolias featuring Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Jill Scott, Adepero Oduye and Condola Rashad. Several critics said the remake didn’t live up to the original film, and one of the producers of the 1989 version sued to get a producer’s credit and compensation.