This year, at the tender age of just nine years old, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ actress Quvenzhané Wallis has become the youngest Best Actress nominee in Academy Awards history. The Louisiana-born fourth-grader is in a pretty tough category this year, up against Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Naomi Watts and - weirdly enough - the oldest ever Best Actress nominee, ‘Amour’s French star Emmanuelle Riva.
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So it’s great news for Quvenzhané, if not for the poor Oscar presenter who has to read out her name. But there’s a perception that child stars’ careers often go off the rails, that their success rarely translates to their adult careers. So should Miss Wallis and her agent be worried about this early recognition? To find out we trawled through the Oscar archives and did a little digging on how the most famous Academy Award-nominated kids have fared since their red carpet strolls...
Justin Henry - ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ (1979) - 8 years old
This year’s little star might be young, but she isn’t the awards’ youngest ever nominee. That honour goes to the then 8 year-old Justin Henry for his role as Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep’s son in the custody tug-of-war drama ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ (SPOILER ALERT: Kramer wins). After appearing in a few films like the John Hughes classic ‘Sixteen Candles’, work soon dried up for the New Yorker. So at the turn of the century, Henry retrained as a ‘Digital Media Professional’. He’s currently the Director of Sales (Western Region) for LA-based social media platform business, Jun Group.
Keisha Castle-Hughes - ‘Whale Rider’ (2002) - 13 years old
Up until this year, New Zealand-born actress Keisha Castle-Hughes held claim to being the youngest ever Best Actress nominee after her mesmerising performance in ‘Whale Rider’. The Kiwi actress has carried on in the business with some success and can even claim a Star Wars credit on her CV (as Apailana, Queen of Naboo in ‘Revenge of the Sith’). In 2006, she played Virgin Mary in ‘The Nativity Story’, famously announcing that she was pregnant out of wedlock just as the film came out. Immaculate timing, Keisha!
Jackie Cooper - ‘Skippy’ (1931) - 9 years old
Back in the early days of the Academy Awards, ‘Skippy’ (nothing to do with the kangaroo) brought its tiny child star Jackie Cooper a surprise Best Actor nomination. At just 9 years and 20 days of age on the date of his nomination, the nod turned out to be the highlight of Cooper’s acting career. He carried on appearing in smaller roles in movies and on TV, but never really broke through to the big time. He tasted success away from Hollywood though, reaching the rank of Captain in the US Army and then becoming a big-shot TV exec. But he didn’t abandon the big screen entirely. He later went on to play Clark Kent’s editor Perry White in the Christopher Reeve ‘Superman’ films.
Haley Joel Osment - ‘The Sixth Sense’ (1999) - 11 years old
As a pre-pubescent, the kid that could ‘see dead people’ was a bit of a sensation. His acting career started when he was cast as Tom Hanks’ son in the chocolate-munching modern classic ‘Forrest Gump’. In the next few years he gave starring turns in movies like ‘Pay It Forward’ and ‘AI: Artificial Intelligence’. His Best Supporting Actor nomination for ‘The Sixth Sense’ was followed by his ‘AI’ director Steven Spielberg recommending him for the Harry Potter role. Osment was going stratospheric. But then Haley’s comet started to plummet. In the past decade or so Osment’s had to make do with far smaller films, off-Broadway theatre and voicing video games. Oh, and getting arrested for drink-driving.
Tatum O’Neal - ‘Paper Moon’ (1973) - 10 years old
For her role as the sharp-as-a-tack tomboy Addie Loggins in Peter Bogdanovich’s brilliant grifter flick ‘Paper Moon’, Tatum O’Neal became the youngest winner in any competitive Oscar category ever (we’re not counting the honorary ‘Juvenile Oscars’ that the Academy used to dish out years ago). She carried on her childhood success in movies like ‘The Bad News Bears’ and ‘International Velvet’. But as she grew older her CV began to be quickly overshadowed by her tempestuous personal life. There was a controversial relationship with Michael Jackson, her rocky marriage to tennis star John McEnroe (seriously), a very public fall-out with her dad - and ‘Paper Moon’ co-star - Ryan O’Neal and even a battle with drug addiction (police busted her with a crack pipe).
Anna Paquin - ‘The Piano’ (1993) - 11 years old
The second youngest ever Oscar winner after Tatum O’Neal, Anna Paquin didn’t rest on her laurels after bagging her gong as a kid. The Canadian-born New Zealander’s résumé boasts plenty of big movies including: ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Fly Away Home’, the ‘X-Men’ series, ‘Amistad’ and ‘Almost Famous’. You can find her now as the improbably-named Sookie Stackhouse in HBO’s wildly successful vampire series, ‘True Blood’.
Quinn Cummings - ‘The Goodbye Girl’ (1977) - 10 years old
After a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as Lucy in Neil Simon’s rom-com ‘The Goodbye Girl’, Quinn Cummings only ever appeared in one more movie (1989’s little-seen ‘Listen To Me’). There were a few TV roles to keep her ticking over, but her true calling came later, as a writer. She’s penned two books about her parenting and education as well as written for magazines and newspapers such as People, Time and The Wall St. Journal. She also invented a successful baby sling called ‘The HipHugger’. And, hey - who needs more Oscar glory when you can sell elasticated parenting products to wholesalers, eh?!
Jodie Foster – ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) - 13 years old
Jodie who? We’re joking of course. Of all the pint-sized Oscar nominees, Jodie has been by far the most successful, enjoying a stellar career in films like ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Panic Room’ and ‘Contact’. Not forgetting her epic coming out speech at this year’s Golden Globes of course. We sometimes forget that her big break was playing Iris, the tragic 12-year-old prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece ‘Taxi Driver’. An experienced child actress, she ousted the likes of Melanie Griffith, Linda Blair and Carrie Fisher for the role.
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