01/11/2013 16:56 | By Ed Holden, editor, MSN Movies

Meet Quvenzhane Wallis: the youngest ever Best Actress Oscar nominee

The 2013 Oscar nominees are a drearily familiar line up with the exception of one talented nine-year-old.


Quvenzhane (© Rex)

There wasn’t a great deal of surprise or intrigue around the 2012 Oscar nominations. You could almost sense the boredom with which media outlets reported the news that the Steven Spielberg epic had received the most nominations followed by the Ang Lee epic and the Tom Hooper epic.

As Emma Stone read out the first category, Best Supporting Actor, she suffixed each and every name with the words ‘he’s won before’. “A real breath of fresh air, that category,” added a sarcastic Seth McFarlane. The sense of familiarity would endure throughout the the remaining categories.

There was a tiny ray of joy, however, in the Best Leading Actress category.

Nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest ever nominee for Best Actress. Quvenzhane was just five when she first auditioned Beasts Of The Southern Wild, which was also recognised in the Best Picture category. She landed the lead role of Hushpuppy, a little girl struggling to survive with her ailing father in the southern Delta as a storm approaches.

Quvenzhane has confessed she didn't know what the Oscars were when people told her she might be nominated for one. She recently revealed she hadn't heard of the ceremony until recently, and has never seen it on television.

"Whenever they said you might make it to the Oscars, I was like, 'Who's Oscar? I don't know Oscar'," she told the press at the Critics’ Choice Awards, just hours after receiving her big nomination.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Quvenzhane, who said she hopes to be an actress and a dentist when she grows up, admitted she was stunned when she heard she was in the running for a gong. "I woke up, and (my mother) said, 'You've been nominated! You're nominated!' I was like, 'Oh my God!' But it was on the inside. It wasn't on the outside."

Beasts Of The Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin is impressed at Quvenzhane’s reaction. "It's magical. She's just poised and fearless. I saw that the first day I ever met her when she was five. To this day, she just knows who she is, and she's confident."

The fact that Quvenzhane will be a rare and extremely welcome change to the familiar line-up at The Oscars shouldn’t deter from the absolute seriousness of her nomination. This is a highly accomplished, bold and powerful performance and you’ll be all in with her when you watch Beasts Of The Southern Wild.

We’re not just boarding the Quvenzhane bandwagon because she’s likely to keep her speech short.

She’s the strongest departure from the familiar that this year’s Oscars has to offer. There are a lot of extremely accomplished performances in the mix. But, for the sake of variety alone, we know who we’ll be rooting for on Oscar night.

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