Five things you need to know about youngest Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis

Meriah Doty
Yahoo! Movies Oscars Blog
10 January 2013
Quvenzhané Wallis during a November 11 interview
Quvenzhané Wallis during a November 11 interview

Nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her spunky-against-all-odds performance in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," making her the youngest on-film nominee in Oscar history and certainly the youngest of all time in the history of the Best Actress category.

If you haven't seen the fantasy drama in which she stars -- and many of you haven't as it's grossed only $11.2 million -- Wallis plays Hushpuppy, a wildly imaginative young girl living in a poor southern Delta community highly susceptible to dangerous flood waters. Wallis, who was six years old when the film was shot, plays the scrappy young girl with uncanny survival skills in nearly every scene. "Beasts," which is a groundbreaking piece of cinema that nearly defies explanation, is equally fantastical and heart-wrenching.

Here are five things you need to know about Quvenzhané Wallis:

1) Her name is pronounced Kwe-VEN-zhah-nay, and means "fairy" in Swahili (though she is from Louisiana). She also goes by Nazie -- pronounced NAY-zee -- and Little Q.

2) The youngest Best Actress nominee to date, Wallis shares the category with the oldest nominee in the category's history, Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour." At 85, Riva is also the second-oldest Oscar nominee of all acting categories -- second to Gloria Stuart who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at age 87 for her role in 1997's "Titanic."

3) "Beasts" was Wallis' first performance on film. One of her follow up projects is an 1800s, New York-set historical drama with Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti and Benedict Cumberbatch called "Twelve Years a Slave."

4) She is said to have a similar personality to her "Beasts" character Hushpuppy. They both love animals and enjoy going on adventures.

5) The "Beasts" audition was for six-to-nine-year-olds. Wallis' mom fibbed about her age -- then five -- to get her the chance to tryout.

In a splitting of hairs scenario, Wallis is just a few months older than was Justin Henry when he was nominated for 1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer." Technically, Henry remains the Academy's youngest all-time nominee, though Wallis was a year younger than he was when their respective films were made. She still has a shot at ushering in a major Oscar milestone if she wins -- to dethrone Tatum O'Neal, who won in 1974 at the age of 10 for "Paper Moon," and become the youngest winner in Oscar history.

Watch 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Theatrical Trailer:

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