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How ‘Annie’ Wound Up at the World Trade Center

How ‘Annie’ Wound Up at the World Trade Center

Dec 17, 2014
By By: Rima Suqi | The New York Times | The New York Times

The contemporary version of “Annie,” the 1982 film about a precocious orphan, opens nationwide on Friday with Quvenzhané Wallis in the title role and Jamie Foxx playing Will Stacks, the man who gives her a home. Like Oliver Warbucks before him, Stacks is a successful businessman, but his residence is nothing like Warbucks’s 130-room Versailles-inspired limestone palace in the first film. Instead he lives in a power penthouse with 360-degree views of Manhattan. Marcia Hinds, the film’s production designer, created the set on the 47th floor of the glass office tower at 4 World Trade Center — while it was still under construction. She recently explained to a reporter how her team managed to pull that off. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Q. Before we get into the details, tell me how you found the space.

A. Will Stacks, our Daddy Warbucks character, needed to be on top of the world. He’s a billionaire. He’s AT&T. We were in some beautiful homes, but none of them just wowed us. We were constantly pointing at 4 World Trade Center, saying, “Can’t we go there?” So the location manager, Tyson Bidner, got us in. It just was breathtaking — the terrace, the Freedom Tower in front of you; you look down at Memorial Park.

But it was completely raw.

We walked into a space with exposed ceilings and a concrete floor. The windows were there and that’s why we were there.

On film, it looks huge.

I believe we finished off approximately 4,500 square feet, which is only half of that floor. The terrace is about 8,000 square feet.

How did you manage it while the building was under construction?

Everything went into an elevator connected to the outside of the building, and everything had to be coordinated. We’d build as much as we could in kits, putting the kits in the construction elevator and sending them 40-some flights up. We had to wear hard hats and safety vests. Our hats said “Annie” on them, and almost every day the workmen would break out in song.

I’m surprised that construction guys knew songs from “Annie.”

I guess everybody knows “Tomorrow” and “A Hard Knock Life.” It was heart-moving.

What was the design philosophy?

There are many layers. We wanted it to be more than a stereotypical modern, minimal, cold, streamlined, white interior. We wanted it contemporary, dramatic, interactive and embracing technology.

Also, this was not just a home with talking heads. People are dancing in it, running in it. So you think about the rhythm of the songs that have to be performed in the space. I was researching other luxurious environments and I started to see a lot of steppingstones around gardens, and I started seeing koi ponds. I sang the songs on the steppingstones to see if it could work. Then I ran into the director’s office and I performed “I’m Really Going to Like it Here” jumping on pretend steppingstones.

In addition to the koi pond, I noticed a lot of monitors.

It’s a smart house. Will Stacks owns the largest mobile phone company in the country, so it’s all about automation today and your house working for you. There are probably about 75 monitors ranging from 70 inches to an iPad. In Annie’s bedroom, all the walls are monitors.

I also noticed that much of the furniture is fairly low to the ground.

It’s a giant space, and we wanted all those windows. It was a constant struggle not to cover them. It couldn’t be super-busy because it’s so open. The sofas, and many tables, were constructed.

The semicircular sofa is pretty fabulous.

The director called it the “Enterprise.”

So you cleared the way for spectacular views. And reflections?

At night the windows turned into 100-some feet of a giant mirror. If you look closely you can see there’s a lot of lighting designed in the set. Light troughs run up the columns, recessed into walls and across the metallic suspended ceiling to the many sconces and chandeliers, and all coordinated with the monitors.

How long did it take to build and wire all of that?

This is what’s kind of amazing. We only had a month in 4 World Trade. When you have a month in a space, it means all the departments have to work in harmony.

I’m not sure unions and harmony go together.

New York harmony. That’s a harmony all its own.

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