January 11th, 2013
10:46 AM ET

Youngest best actress Oscar nominee keeps her cool

At age 9, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" star Quvenzhané Wallis has a self-possessed quality that any adult would envy.

The fourth-grade newcomer tells CNN that her Academy Award nomination for best actress didn't catch her off guard this week, but she does recognize the honor of not only nabbing the recognition but also being the youngest lead actress ever to do so.

Below is an edited transcript of an interview that CNN's KJ Matthews had with Wallis and "Beasts" director Benh Zeitlin, who also earned a nod in the best director category.

CNN: Where were you when you heard the news?

Quvenzhané Wallis: In the hotel room, half asleep. Saw my name just rolling down like this, but on the inside I was excited. And just sitting there, and then boom! All you hear is stuff just speaking about the film, you, me, stuff like that.

CNN: Were you expecting it at all?

Wallis: Yeah, pretty much! Yeah. Everybody said they were going to vote, so ...

Benh Zeitlin: I was nervous.

CNN: How do you keep all this from going to your head?

Wallis: Just (don't) let it - like, I don’t let it surprise me that much.

Zeitlin: I’ve never seen anyone take things in stride like her. She just keeps her cool no matter what. I don’t know how she does it.

CNN: Did you ever expect this kind of success for the film?

Zeitlin: This is my first film; this is her first film. We didn’t have any celebrities - there were no famous people involved in it in any way. And you just assume no one’s ever going to see it. And that’s what usually happens to films that don’t have something like that with them, but so many people championed it and have been moved by (Wallis' character) Hushpuppy, and told people about it, and it’s traveled all over the world. It’s been the most moving and shocking experience I could imagine.

CNN: (Quvenzhané), what made you decide to audition for this?

Wallis: It was just something I wanted to try.

Zeitlin: She was 5 at the time.

Wallis: Yeah, so I just wanted to try something.

CNN: I heard you lied about your age to audition?

Wallis: I lied on the sheet, but when I went in, I told them that I was 5.

Zeitlin: She 'fessed up.

Wallis: Yeah, I couldn’t handle lying. I was like, “Mom, you sure, you sure?” And then I went in and was like, “I’m 5,” and told the truth.

Zeitlin: We decided to give her a chance anyway.

CNN: Is it true you improvised some of your lines?

Wallis: Like after (we) finished with the shooting, everybody would leave, but I had to stay. We would go to (the director's) laptop and he would have some things on the laptop -

Zeitlin: The script?

Wallis: Yeah, the script. Sometimes I forget the name. And we would just look through it, page by page, and he’d put, “Seeeeeeeee.” And I had to delete the “e’s."

Zeitlin: My typos, delete my typos.

Wallis: Yeah, he would put, “cain’t,” and I was like, “I can’t say that.”

Zeitlin: You’d be like, “I don’t like that word, I need to change that word.” And then she’d delete that, and then I’d let her type in a new one -

Wallis: "Cannot."

Zeitlin: Right. Grammar had to be improved, things like that.

CNN: Any idea of what you'd like to wear (to the Oscar ceremony)? A favorite color?

Wallis: My favorite color is - I don’t like black by itself, so every single color but just not black by itself. ... It has to have white or something, like a zebra.

CNN: Who are you taking?

Wallis: Myself.

CNN: Are you going with your mom?

Wallis: Yeah, normal. I can’t come here by myself!

CNN: Do you want to keep acting? I know you have another film coming out later this year.

Wallis: I want to be an actress, but I want to be a dentist, so I’m going to do both.

CNN: Why a dentist? What interests you about that?

Wallis: The smiles.

CNN: How are you going to celebrate?

Wallis: Chicken and waffles!

Zeitlin: Definitely!

soundoff (44 Responses)


    February 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jeff are you handly with computers

    if so...i cannot connect to the internet...can you help....it crashed yeterday afternoon...please advize.

    February 5, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff Cox

    I have to say that I saw the movie ... and didn't get it. If it's purpose was to point out the fact that there are people living in squalor in "the greatest country in the world", then they did a great job. Other than that? It's another highly overrated art flick. My opinion.

    February 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. spoke to medical


    January 14, 2013 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. TriumphTheInsultComicDog

    I bet if he doesn't win Django goes unchained on everyone at the oscars.

    January 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. one more thing...

    all of them were between 38 and 41...heck yea...i'm going to a club!


    January 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ann

    I knew some extras in this movie since I live pretty close to where it was shot, so I went to see it when it came out just out of curiosity more than anything. It was breathtaking! Quvenzhane showed acting skill that was far beyond the majority of actresses who have won Oscars in the past. The entire movie was set in a fantastical world far removed from reality, which shows me that she has amazing acting skills and range. It upsets me that people would comment obviously without having seen the movie.

    January 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • E Carol Miracle

      I am so looking forward to seeing this movie!!!
      Thank you for your positive honest spirit Ann 🙂

      January 13, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Servemyego

    What a joke. An 8 year old best actress nominee? I can dig Linda Blair at 13 in The Exorcist but this is stretching it. Never seen the movie, but my guess is her role had a lot of smiling, jumping and fake boo hooing.

    January 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • mostly true

      and there is the problem with the giggles...geez you think linda would have grown out of that.

      January 11, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shelley

      You should see the movie before you assume anything. She had to have been acting because her character does not have the life of a child as we know it... so I agree, tought to grasp a possible acting award for a role done at age 6?, and First gig too.. But the director told her what they wanted and she delivered.. so how is that different for her than for Meryl Streep/

      January 12, 2013 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • SeriousBlacque

      You. Would be sooooooo wrong. This movie and her acting was phenomenal!!!!!!!!! If she doesn't win it's a shame.

      January 14, 2013 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
    • sassysticks53

      Yes, smiling, jumping and fake boo-hooing – that's ACTING! Jerk!

      January 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • jazzluver

      Don't guess or ASSume. Go see the movie!

      January 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tom The Dancer

    anybody remember the electric slide? i love that dance..

    January 11, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Larry Feinstein

    hey fellas i'm having dinner with sonny and cher anybody interested?

    January 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joseph Augie Jackson

    are we up or down today!

    January 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mario Woods

    i'll be on the golf course at 3am and everybody better be on time or heads are gonna roll!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Silver Tongue Larry

    hey!!!! your our next contestant on the price is right! come on down!!!!

    January 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tom Sorsettta

    i like beer it makes me a jolly good fellow and i love david guetta's work.

    January 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Devon

    It's pretty funny that this beautiful and talented young lady has already accomplished more in her young life than any of the pathetic, hateful fools who are so empty inside that they can't resist mocking a little girl.

    January 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  16. ShawnDH

    Hey Michelle:

    Go F your self you ignorant piece of trash racist.

    January 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Stan

    Quantavius is an awesome young actress.

    January 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Seth

    Please quit being silly. She is a girl. She was Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show, then starred in the colored version of Steel Magnolias.

    January 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine


      January 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jellianne

      What's with all the Webster and Cosby references? Your poor white trash behind couldn't star with Honey Boo Boo and she's the ultimate white trailer trash. She's pretty and talented and beautifully BLACK, so go crawl back under your rocks and get over it! Oh, and here's another clue....YOUR PRESIDENT AND HIS WIFE ARE BLACK TOO!!

      January 12, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Blue Michelle 2

    what a thrill for her parents to have given birth to her.

    January 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Tamara Jackson

    Go Webster! Go Webster! It's ya birthday! It's ya birthday!

    January 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Michelle

    I loved her as Webster also. It was a great family show. She was even better as Nucky on The Boardwalk Empire. She should have gotten an Emmy for that part. She's mega tallented

    January 11, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  22. round house

    the child needs "support" at this time..its back to the negative "tool" again.

    January 11, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laquanda Janelle Jones

      Quentavius is a wonderful actress. At only 9 years old and already up for a major award. Lets all support her.

      January 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  23. what a lovely child

    January 11, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  24. your the only 1 here...

    poor thing.

    January 11, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  25. ShawnDH

    She was great in the movie - which was also amazing.

    But can filmmakers please, PLEASE stop the shaky camera thing? It was very distracting and my friend even got motion sickness. It worked in the opening sequences, then it should have stopped. It added nothing to the storytelling.

    January 11, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  26. eat

    A candy that she wants in front of her and lets see if she will still keep her cool.

    January 11, 2013 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |

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