Nine-year-old “Beasts” star Quvenzhane Wallis finds herself in the award-season spotlight.
Quvenzhane Wallis is excited to be an Oscar nominee, primarily because it gives her the chance to meet some movie actors. Yet, when pressed, the 9-year-old star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” says it’s the stars of her favorite TV shows, “Jessie” and “Austin and Ally,” who are most appealing to her.
“I want to meet everybody on Disney Channel and Disney XD that are alive,” she said in a recent phone interview.
Wallis and “Beasts” have been critical favorites since last year’s Sundance Film Festival. But the film — which so far has grossed about $11 million at the box office — wasn’t widely known in mainstream circles until the Oscar nominations were announced. “Beasts” racked up four nominations, including best picture and director, and a lead actress nod for Wallis, a resident of Houma, La., and the youngest actress ever nominated for an Academy Award.
Wallis celebrated her historical recognition at the recent Critics’ Choice Awards, where she won the best young actress prize. She said she especially enjoyed the party after the show, where she wore a sparkly purple gown and danced with her mom and her brothers.
Only 5 when she auditioned for the role of Hushpuppy in “Beasts,” Wallis says that she wanted to act even before she made her first movie, because “I get to meet different directors and different people.”
Those directors include “Beasts” helmer Benh Zeitlin and Steve McQueen, who worked most recently with Wallis on his Southern-set drama “Twelve Years a Slave” starring Brad Pitt. Wallis has a small part in the film, playing the daughter of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kelsey Scott. Cameron Zeigler plays her brother.
How did the two directors differ? According to Wallis, McQueen “has a different accent and he’s bigger.”
Wallis says she wants to continue acting but also plans to stay in her school. The fourth-grader said some of her friends back home have seen her PG-13 debut. “Two of my friends have seen it,” she said. “They said I did good.”
Wallis herself has watched the movie nine times. Her favorite parts: “I like it whenever I’m eating seafood and whenever Walrus falls off the trailer,” she says, referring to one of the colorful residents of the Bathtub, a fictional town in Louisiana that’s been cut off from the world after a storm causes a break in a levee.