Oscar 2012, Best Actress: Young and Old


The record for the youngest person ever nominated for the Best Actress Oscar was Keisha Castle-Hughes, for Whale Rider, who was 13. The oldest nominee was Jessica Tandy, for Driving Miss Daisy at 80. Both of those records could fall this year, as the very young and the very old are prominent in this year’s films.

This is one of the those years where very few of the big Oscar pictures have major leading female roles, so it’s possible for women (or girls) from little-seen or foreign films could make it on the list. This makes the category difficult to handicap, because it’s not known by me which films are aggressively marketing or not.

But here is my early pick for the nominees, in alphabetical order:

Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) This is one foreign language performance that could get traction, as Cotillard plays a trainer of killer whales in a romantic drama. Since Cotillard has already won, she might get more attention than had she not.

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) Lawrence actually is the second youngest to ever be nominated in this category, at 20 for Winter’s Bone. Now a sagacious 22 and a big star, she is in a big fall release. From the trailer, it looks like a classic “manic pixie dream girl” performance, but she could go into the contest as the favorite to win.

Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) Riva, if nominated, would set the record for oldest nominee, as she is 85. She was a key part of the French New Wave (she was the lead in Hiroshima, Mon Amour, among others), and now could sneak in if Amour is as good as everyone says it is.

Maggie Smith (Quartet) Smith has been nominated six times previously, winning twice, and she’s 77. But she’s kept in the public eye all this time with her work in the Harry Potter films and Downtown Abbey. Quartet is a film about a retirement home for opera singers, directed by Dustin Hoffman, of all people. If the film gets any attention, Smith may be a contender.

Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) I can’t find a birth date online for Miss Wallis, who so dominates this critically acclaimed film. She would certainly break Castle-Hughes’ record, as I believe she is now eight years old. The question would be if she would break the record for lead actor, which is held by Jackie Cooper, who was nine when nominated for Skippy, or acting in any category, which is held by Justin Henry for Kramer vs. Kramer, who was just shy of nine. I think she’s a good bet for a nomination, even though in the past children were often shifted to supporting categories. There’s no way they can do that here.

Also possible:

Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down)
Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina)
Helen Mirren (Hitchcock)
Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smash)


About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

3 responses »

  1. I think the pitiful box office returns and indifferent-to-poor critical reactions for Won’t Back Down have killed Davis’s chances for that movie. That’s the only one of your list that seems impossible, although it’s hard to see the Academy giving out two foreign language nominees.

    I haven’t seen Hiroshima, mon amour but Riva’s brilliant in Melville’s Leon Morin, Priest, which is a wonderful movie. As you might imagine, I’m really looking forward to Haneke’s Amour also.

    I’d probably be inclined to drop either Cotillard or Riva, and move up Knightley and … I’m not sure. I’d randomly guess (and I mean randomly, since I have no knowledge of the landscape) that Mirren will be pushed in Supporting, regardless of how big her role is, so that leaves Watts and Winstead, or someone else. I’ll probably take the field in that case.

  2. although it’s hard to see the Academy giving out two foreign language nominees.

    It’s not unprecedented. In the 1976 awards, both Liv Ullmann (Face to Face) and Marie-Christine Barrault (Cousin, Cousine) were nominated in a particularly lean year for Hollywood movies with female leads. Sissy Spacek was also nominated that year for Carrie, which was something of a surprise.

    It also happened in 1966, with Anouk Aimee nominated for A Man and a Woman and Ida Kaminska for The Shop on Main Street.

  3. Also there’s Meryl Streep, who gets nominated for virtually everything she does, and Hope Springs was a reasonably well-received film that seemed practically targeted at older Academy voters.

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