TODAY – If 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis wins an Oscar for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” she’ll be the youngest performer ever to capture an adult version of Hollywood’s most coveted prize. Unfortunately for Wallis, her chances of taking home the gold-plated statuette for best actress are slim, and if history is a predictor, being bestowed with an Oscar at such a young age won’t do much for her career anyway.
Wallis, who was only 6 when she made “Beasts of the Southern Wild,”’ is the 22nd actor or actress to get an Oscar nomination before turning 18. Only three have won, however, and all for supporting roles: Tatum O’Neal, Anna Paquin and Patty Duke. That’s not counting the honorary juvenile award first given to 6-year-old Shirley Temple in 1935 and last handed out to 14-year-old Hayley Mills in 1961.
The youngest winner was O’Neal, just 10 when she was honored for her precocious performance as the sidekick of a Depression-era con man (played by her father Ryan) in 1973’s “Paper Moon.” She went on to star in “The Bad News Bears” and “International Velvet,” but drug problems — the result, according to her autobiography “A Paper Life,” of growing up with an alcoholic mother and abusive father living in Hollywood’s fast lane — derailed her career and marriage to tennis great John McEnroe.
Paquin, who was 11 when she won for 1993’s “The Piano,” is the anomaly. She stars in HBO’s “True Blood,” had a recurring role in the “X-Men” series and has scored great film roles in “Almost Famous” and “The Squid and the Whale.”
Duke’s career trajectory was much different. Winning the the supporting-actress award for playing Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” (1962) when she was 16 did not “open any doors for me,” she told TODAY.com.
Sure, she parlayed her Oscar into a TV series, “The Patty Duke Show,” but her feature-film career fizzled as an adult and she mostly appeared in made-for-TV movies.”It’s a kick when people refer to me as an Oscar winner,” she said. “But part of me says, ‘Hey, I’m 66 years old. When are you going to give me another part for which I could be nominated?’ ”
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