Aileen Quinn was only nine years old when became world famous after her joyous portrayal of the orphan Annie Warbucks in 1982. The child actor’s face was engraved into the minds of millions, with her adorable smile, freckled cheeks and distinctive red locks.
Most of us first met Quinn in the 1982 film Annie, which was originally a Broadway musical. But of course, that little girl is grown up now, and she looks very different from her appearance in the iconic musical. In fact, after decades of working on musicals, film sets and in classrooms, she is hardly recognizable.
The story of Annie is about a little girl who moves from an orphanage run by the evil Miss Hannigan, starring Carol Burnett. And from there, she finds residence in a grand mansion owned by a billionaire named Oliver Warbucks, played by Albert Finney. There, the rich man helps the orphan girl find her biological parents by offering a reward to whoever finds them. But this, in turn, attracts fraudsters.
Moreover, the film follows a positive musical theme – and the soundtrack did extremely well, going double platinum. Of the 15 songs included, Quinn sang ten of them, with two songs, “Maybe” and “Dumb Dog,” being performed solo. Alongside that, the star released the debut album Bobby’s Girl that same year.
But while we know it’s a hard-knock life, and the sun will come out tomorrow, there is a lot we don’t know. For example, how did the actress Quinn get the part of the orphan, what has she been up to since the classic movie Annie – and what does she look like now?
Quinn was born in June 1971 in Yardley, Pennsylvania. And there, she attended the Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit, New Jersey. But before Quinn was cast in the hit musical Annie, her mother Helenann, who worked in showbiz herself, had introduced her to acting and singing.
Quinn’s journey started when she landed a part in a local theater production of Annie Get Your Gun, which, despite its similar name, is not related to the hit movie Annie. This was a musical about a sharpshooter named Annie Oakley, who had starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. From there, Quinn continued with community theater until she finally got an agent.
So, before the age of nine, Quinn’s acting career was already blossoming. Indeed, she then landed a minor part in the David Steinberg movie Paternity and started to work in New York City. The rising star also began appearing in television commercials and then finally got the part of the “swinging orphan” in the Broadway production of Annie.
Meanwhile, while she played the “swinging orphan,” Quinn’s life had 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 show of Annie that she started to audition for the film. But despite what some may think about child actors landing gigs, it was not easy. The director of the movie, John Huston, wanted to find the perfect actress for the part and the audition process took around a year.
Quinn competed against over 8,000 kids for the part before she was narrowed down to the final three, competing in a total of eight auditions. And after completing a screen test, a search coordinator named Garrison True gave her the thrilling news that she would get the life-changing role.
Quinn reminisced on the pivoting moment in her interview with Yahoo! Entertainment. The star recalled, “He said, ‘We found our Annie.’ 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.”
But, let’s fast forward several decades – what does Quinn look like now? Well, for starters those curly locks are no more. In fact, she had been wearing a wig for the movie. She now has long wavy hair, still with a hint of red, and a gorgeous, matured face.
In fact, while we often hear about child stars growing up to go off the rails, that was not the case for Quinn. As an adult, she went on to work a number of different jobs. These included teaching various subjects and singing in a band, to directing musicals and acting on stage as well as film.
And after filming, the child star did experience some strange moments. For example, she told WATN-TV, her best friend asked for her signature. But Quinn being her down-to-earth self, she was shocked and said, “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 fellow actors. For example, despite Carol Burnett playing the evil character of Miss Hannigan, Quinn told Yahoo! Entertainment that in reality, her co-star was like a mother figure on set. Indeed, the two actresses maintain contact to this day, enjoying dinners together and catching up after shows.
What’s more, she recalled a humorous memory of co-star Albert Finney, who played Oliver. She added, “One of my favorite memories of him [Finney] is learning to really sing for the first time. He did that beautiful version of ‘Maybe.’”
Quinn continued to Yahoo! Entertainment, “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 then spoke of how Finney practiced tap dancing by putting bottle caps beneath his shoes, adding, “He was, like, in it to win it… so adorable.”
Quinn also spoke about acting with the dog Sandy on Annie. She told Playbill, “Besides the fact he had to lick my face on cue… it was really fun working with him.” Furthermore, there were actually several Otterhounds used to portray the orphan’s furry side-kick. However, there was a main one they used named Bingo.
As we know, Annie took off and became a global sensation. Furthermore, Quinn’s portrayal of the titular character won her the accolade of “Best Actress” from the Youth In Film Awards, and she got two Golden Globe nominations. Of course, it also made her career, as she was signed for several other roles.
However, not everyone praised Quinn’s talent. She still remembers one of the bizarre comments from film critic Gene Siskel. She told Yahoo! Entertainment, “He said, ‘I think those freckles were painted on.’ 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.”
Moreover, Quinn was also granted prizes of ridicule. In 1983 she won a Golden Raspberry Award for “Worst Supporting Actress.” These parody awards are booby prizes intended on highlighting films and portrayals perceived to be embarrassing.
Nevertheless, due to the Annie’s success, there had been a plan for a sequel with Quinn. But to fans’ disappointment, it fell through. However, there was a 2014 film remake of the Broadway musical. Consequently, this movie received similar nominations and awards, including a Golden Raspberry Award for “Worse Remake.”
In turn, upon hearing the news of the modern remake, produced by Jay Z and Will Smith, Quinn had said 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, Quinn was still in contract with Columbia Pictures. And there, she took on lead roles in theater shows such as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Kim in Bye, Bye Birdie, Jenny in Shenandoah and of course the leading orphan in stage productions of Annie.
And with the wild success of Annie’s track album, 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 included ten pop tracks and had Quinn on the cover.
Then, in 1986 Quinn played the protagonist Princess Zora in The Frog Prince. However, the musical fairy-tale, which aired on the Disney Channel, received modest ratings. Then, when she was 18, the child star decided to take a break from the world of showbiz to focus on education.
Quinn recalled her decision to take a break from acting in a 2017 interview with the website Her. 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 that was a choice that Quinn says she is very “glad” she made.
Meanwhile, Quinn went on to live life away from the limelight and she enrolled into Drew University. During an exchange program, the bilingual student lived with a family in Chile for half a year. And she described her time there as one of the most rewarding things she has ever experienced.
Consequently, she graduated in 1994 with a degree in Spanish and a minor in political science. She then briefly became a translator before deciding it was time to get back into acting once again, as she went on to act as Bette in the musical Oliver!
From there, Quinn went on to tour the U.S., playing parts in three major Broadway shows. Her five-year journey consisted of her in roles such as Tootles and Jane in Peter Pan, Chava in Fiddler on the Roof and Annette in Saturday Night Fever.
The singer and actress then journeyed across the Atlantic to London, England. And there, Quinn performed in Shakespearean plays including As You Like It and Twelfth Night at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. But while she spent most her acting career on stage, Quinn soon went back onto film and TV sets.
Then in 2004 Quinn hosted a children’s educational sitcom called Generation Gap, made by filmmaker Edna Harris. The interactive TV show aired on PBS and it aimed to give kids the skills to be able to resolve certain conflicts with others.
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 played the minor role of a school secretary. Then, in 2014 she appeared in two episodes of The Comeback Kids.
But outside of Quinn’s career on camera, she kept busy with her passion for education. And in 2009 the star earned an honorary degree from Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. There, she also became an adjunct professor to theater studies.
And the fact that Quinn ended up at Monmouth University could be seen as fate. That’s because it was the very same place where the 1982 Annie movie was performed. Indeed, Jersey City, New Jersey, has been the stage for core parts of the actress’ life.
Not only that, Quinn was also involved in other areas of education in Jersey City. There, she worked at Hudson Catholic Regional High School, teaching a number of subjects including drama, dance and her second language, Spanish.
But these days, Quinn works with her band named Aileen Quinn and The Leapin’ Lizards. Interestingly, she had met her fellow band members through one of her neighbors, as they had heard the star’s beautiful singing from her apartment.
Aileen Quinn and The Leapin’ Lizards released their first album, Spin Me, which included ten songs such as “Mama Didn’t Raise You Right” and “When All Hell Breaks Loose.” The band is now working on their next album – and we can’t wait to see what Quinn does next.