Fri. Jul 3rd, 2020

Could Beasts of No Nation’s Abraham Attah Be a Surprise Best Actor Contender?

Beasts of No Nation’s Abraham Attah could become a surprise contender for Best Actor this year


As the buzz for Netflix’s first foray into feature film, Beasts of No Nation, hits festival after festival and the Oscar buzz gets louder and louder could we see Best Supporting Actor contender (and virtual lock) Idris Elba be joined on Oscar nomination morning by his co-star Abraham Attah in Lead?

In the film, Attah plays Agu, a child soldier taken from his family in the midst of a civil war under the tutelage of Elba’s Commandant.

Although Beasts is Attah’s film debut I’m reminded of another youngster whose film debut catapulted her all the way to an Oscar nomination for a small film that was buoyed by early internet buzz. That girl was Keisha Castle-Hughes for the film Whale Rider (2003). In 2013, another child performance in a ‘Beasts’ film grabbed a Lead nomination for the film debut of Quvenzhané Wallis. At nine years old, she is the youngest Best Actress nominee in Academy history. It’s very possible that Attah will gain traction by winning the numerous youth performance awards available in the awards-heavy season leading up to the Oscars and those will only help him get to the Dolby next February.

If you think it might be difficult for a child actor to get Oscar nominated (or win) you might be surprised at just how open the Academy can be to a child performance that completely captures the season. Granted, Best Actor seems to be a harder category to crack than the supporting ones but it’s happened. Here’s a list of just a handful of nominees and winners age 14 and under throughout the years.

  • Justin Henry is the youngest nominee ever. He was nominated at age 8 for Best Supporting Actor for 1979’s Kramer Vs. Kramer. (He lost to Melvyn Douglas in Being There.)
  • Quvenzhané Wallis for 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, age 9. (She lost to Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.)
  • Jackie Cooper was 9 when he was nominated for Best Actor for 1931’s Skippy. (He lost to Lionel Barrymore in A Free Soul. )
  • Tatum O’Neal is the youngest winner ever, winning Best Supporting Actress for 1973’s Paper Moon at age 10.
  • Abigail Breslin was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine, when she was 10. (She lost to Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls.)
  • Mary Badham was a Best Supporting Actress nominee for 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird at age 10. (She lost to Patty Duke, herself only age 16, for The Miracle Worker.)
  • Anna Paquin won Best Supporting Actress at age 11, for 1993’s The Piano.
  • Haley Joel Osment earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for 1999’s The Sixth Sense, when he was 11. (He lost to Michael Caine in Cider House Rules.)
  • Brandon De Wilde was 11 years old when he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for 1953’s Shane. (He lost to Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity.)
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes received a Best Actress nomination for 2003’s Whale Rider at age 13. (She lost to Charlize Theron in Monster.)
  • Saoirse Ronan was a Best Supporting Actress nominee for 2007’s Atonement at age 13. (She lost to Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton.)
  • Hailee Steinfeld was 14 when she got a Best Supporting Actress nomination for 2010’s True Grit at age 14. (She lost to Melissa Leo in The Fighter.)
  • Jodie Foster was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for 1976’s Taxi Driver at age 14. (She lost to Beatrice Straight in Network.)

Beasts of No Nation is based on the novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala and adapted and directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, Sin Nombre) and will premiere on Netflix on October 16th after appearing at the Toronto and Venice film festivals.


Check out the trailer and tell me what you think.

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