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