Quvenzhané Wallis, 9, the young star of Benh Zeitlin’s Oscar-nominated indie film Beasts of the Southern Wild, is the youngest actress who has ever been nominated for an Academy Award. She plays Hushpuppy, a young girl who must save herself and her father from a flood that’s threatening their bayou home in Louisianna.

Prior to Wallis, the record was held by the then 13-year-old, Keisha Castle-Hughes, for Whale Rider. If she wins, she will be the youngest person ever to win an Academy Award. Tatum O’Neal holds the current record for her supporting role performance in Paper Moon at the age of 10. Marlee Matlin holds the current record for Best Actress in a Leading Role – Wallis' category. She was 21 when she won the Oscar for Children of a Lesser God.

Wallis was only 5 when she auditioned for the role of Hushpuppy, having lied about her age in the 6-9 age bracket casting call. Zeitlin doesn’t appear to have any regrets in hiring an actress outside of the age bracket. “I looked at 4,000 people for that role [Hushpuppy] and I'd never seen a kid who could act like that. It's a miraculous thing and it's talent,” Zeitlin told Newsday.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was Wallis’ first acting job, but it certainly won’t be her last. The young actress currently has two films in post production – Twelve Years a Slave with Brad Pitt and Sarah Paulson, and Boneshaker.

Check out Quvenzhané Wallis' interview with Oprah here:

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