Oscar 2013 predictions: Quvenzhané Wallis to become the Academy Awards’ female equivalent to Jackie Cooper?
Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhané Wallis, a possible (some say inevitable) 2013 Best Actress Oscar nominee alongside the likes of potential nominees Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren, Emmanuelle Riva, Judi Dench, and Naomi Watts, has her age working both for and against her. In other words, some Academy members will see the nine-year-old Wallis as a precocious thespian, a she’s-so-cute Sarah Bernhardt in the making. Others, however, will surely wonder, "Can a nine-year-old really get inside the mind and heart of a character, or do such young actors merely react to their directors’ performance-eliciting tricks and commands?" (Photo: Quvenzhané Wallis Beasts of the Southern Wild.)
The youngest Best Actress Academy Award nominee to date is Keisha Castle-Hughes, 12 years old when Whale Rider had its public premiere, and a surprise contender in early 2004. But there have been younger Oscar nominees in other categories: Jackie Cooper was eight when he starred in Skippy in 1931; he would eventually be nominated for that period’s (1930-31) Best Actor Academy Award. (Academy members were surely impressed by Cooper’s ability to cry on cue; little did they know that his uncle, eventual Best Director Oscar winner Norman Taurog, threatened to shoot the young actor’s dog to get him to "act.")
Justin Henry vs. Melvyn Douglas
Newcomer Justin Henry was also eight years old when he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance as Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep’s son in the eventual Best Picture winner Kramer vs. Kramer. At the time, fellow Best Supporting Actor nominee Melvyn Douglas, who had been making movies since the time Jackie Cooper got his nomination, pulled a Joaquin Phoenix by telling the media, "The whole thing is absurd, my competing with an eight-year-old." (Phoenix, by the way, should take heart: Douglas, who didn’t even bother going to the ceremony, turned out to be the year’s Oscar winner for Being There.)
But nothing beats Victoire Thivisol’s Best Actress Volpi Cup win at the 1996 Venice Film Festival. In Jacques Doillon’s Ponette, Thivisol plays a young girl attempting to cope with her mother’s death. She was four at the time the movie was made.
Melvyn Douglas quote via Damien Bona and Mason Wiley’s Inside Oscar.
Quvenzhané Wallis Beasts of the Southern Wild photo: Fox Searchlight.