Quvenzhane Wallis was just 5 years old when she auditioned for a role in the Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, and 6 when she shot the movie. Now, at age 9, she is the youngest ever to receive a best actress Oscar nomination.
In the film, Quvenzhane plays a wild child named Hushpuppy, who lives with her sick father in a ramshackle, isolated community called the Bathtub, on the fringes of the Louisiana coast.
She speaks with All Things Considered host Melissa Block about finding time to be a fourth-grader, what was hard about filming in the Louisiana bayou, and which scene she won’t re-enact for her friends.
On her audition with director Benh Zeitlen, who said he picked Quvenzhane for the role because she was “fierce” and had tenacity
“Yeah, I felt like I did good. … [But] I’m not fierce as much anymore. If I have to be fierce, I’ll be fierce.”
On how she sees her character
“[Hushpuppy] was … a little girl who wanted to just follow her father, because her mother wasn’t there, and she just wanted to go, kinda just like went after everything that he has done.”
On what Hushpuppy listens to when she picks up animals and holds them to her ear
“I’m listening to their heartbeat … [Hushpuppy’s] father kinda had like this fall down, and I guess she was trying to figure out how fast each heartbeats go, and trying to figure out what was going on and stuff like that.”
On the hardest part of filming the movie
“Dealing with the mosquitoes and the mud. … But I’m used to getting bit by mosquitoes, but the mud I’m not so used to. Because if I get in mud, I wash it off. But what they did, they got me in mud and never let me wash it off. But whenever I got home, I got to wash it off and go to bed.”
On the movie’s ‘Who’s the man?’ scene
“That was like a fun scene. Whenever we started saying, like, ‘I’m the man, I’m the man,’ and just, we did that together …
“Whenever I’m like at home and riding my scooter, [my friends] stop me and they’re like, ‘Who’s the man?’ I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna tell you.’ …
On finding balance as an Oscar-nominated fourth-grader
“It’s kinda hard, because like focusing on the role, I don’t have time. But they’re starting to add homework into the schedule. I don’t have time enough to like, do a few things, so it’s just kinda, like, hard focusing on school.”