One of the great surprises of the 2013 Oscar nominations was 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis’ lead actress nomination for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” The young girl’s larger-than-life performance as Hushpuppy charmed enough Academy voters to make her the youngest lead actress nominee ever.
But Wallis isn’t the youngest overall Oscar nominee. That distinction is still held by Justin Henry, who was 8 years old when he was nominated for his role as Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep’s son in the 1979 drama “Kramer vs. Kramer.”
Despite holding such a distinctive honor, Henry’s career proves that early attention from Oscar doesn’t necessarily guarantee a boost for the acting career. Though Henry continues to appear in film and TV projects from time to time, he never became a marquee name the way “Home Alone” star Macauley Culkin did. Today, he’s mostly left the acting business and works in online ad sales.
In the lead actor race, the youngest nominee was just 115 days younger than Wallis. Jackie Cooper was also 9 years old when he got a best actor nomination for “Skippy.” Unlike Henry, “Skippy” and the Oscar nomination made Cooper a huge star, appearing in “Treasure Island,” among other films.
While Cooper’s career slowed when he reached adulthood, he found new fame and recognition when he played Perry White in “Superman” in 1978.
The youngest nominee for supporting actress also happens to be the youngest Oscar winner ever -- Tatum O’Neal for the film “Paper Moon.” She was 10 years old when she was nominated in 1973.
O’Neal parlayed her stardom in a series of big roles, including “The Bad News Bears” and “International Velvet,” but her personal life and problems soon eclipsed her acting career. She most recently appeared alongside her long-estranged father in the OWN reality series “Ryan and Tatum: The O’Neals.”
One reason there’s such a large gap in years between Cooper and the rest of the young actors is that the Academy instituted a special Juvenile Oscar, which it bestowed intermittently from 1934 to 1960. The first recipient of this award was also the youngest of the pack -- Shirley Temple was just 6 years old when she got the mini-Oscar for her contributions to entertainment in 1934.