Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Quvenzhane Wallis 'not too young'

Quvenzhane Wallis stars in Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Beasts Of The Southern Wild star Quvenzhane Wallis is up for an Oscar at the age of just nine - but her director doesn't believe she's too young.

Quvenzhane has become the youngest-ever actress nominee at the Academy Awards for her role as Hushpuppy.

Director Benh Zeitlin doesn't think nine is too young for such an honour.

Benh, who is up for a best director Oscar himself with just his first feature, praised Quvenzhane for the incredible sense of self she displayed from the beginning. But he also recalled one day when she seemed to be struggling on set, and he took her aside to ask what was wrong.

"'I know. I can't snap it today. Normally I can snap it,'" he remembered her saying. "The fact that she had an internal sense of when she's in character, when she's getting the emotions right and feeling it, is really special even in experienced actors, but especially someone of her age to have that sort of self-awareness."

Quvenzhane is up against the oldest-ever best actress nominee, 85-year-old French veteran Emmanuelle Riva of Amour.

Rounding out the field are Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook and Naomi Watts for The Impossible.

But Benh said Quvenzhane was still very much a little kid on the set: "She would say things to me like, 'Benh, I'm only six years old, you need to use smaller words,' or 'I'm gonna get cranky sometimes.' She had this awareness almost like an observer of a child."

He also points out that Quvenzhane is nothing like the girl she played.

"Hushpuppy as a character is going through unbelievable circumstances. She's damaged, she's morose, she's contemplative, she's quiet, she has this great burden on her shoulders," he said. "Quvenzhane Wallis is the most carefree, fun-loving, goofy, playful person you can imagine, and she had to put herself in that skin on a consistent basis."

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