SBIFF 2013: Quvenzhané Wallis Talks BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, How Benh Zeitlin Helped with Her Performance, and More

     February 2, 2013

This year, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest person ever to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination, for her performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Recognized for her work as Hushpuppy, she was honored with a Virtuosos Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF).  Collider was there to cover and attend the event, and we’ve compiled the highlights of what the actress had to say, both on the press line and during the Q&A.

While there, Quvenzhané Wallis talked about getting over her nerves for her audition, what she remembers most about the film’s shoot, how director Benh Zeitlin helped with her performance, what she most likes about her character, the relationship she has with movie dad Dwight Henry, how fun the experience of making 12 Years A Slave was, how she’d like to voice an animal in an animated film, that she would love to do a musical, and that the whole awards show experience can be a little bit cuckoo.  Check out what she had to say after the jump.

quvenzhane-wallisQuestion:  You auditioned for this film when you were five years old.  Do you remember what it was that interested you in acting, in the first place?

QUVENZHANE WALLIS:  The funny part is that I really didn’t know.  I knew what acting was ‘cause I watched TV, of course, but I was just going through it.  My mom called me out of my room, where I was jumping and dancing on my bed, and she was talking to her friend.  Everything happened that way.  She was just like, “They want you to go to an audition for 6 to 9-year-olds,” and I was like, “Sure, why not?”  It was just something I wanted to try, so I went after it.

Did you think you would be good at it, or were you unsure of yourself when you went to the audition? 

WALLIS:  That’s a good question.  I would go in and be nervous, but try to not be nervous.  I was just like, “Hi, how are you doing?”  I was underage.  You had to be six to audition, and I was only five.  But, I made it!

It’s been awhile since you shot this film.  What do you remember about the experience? 

WALLIS:  All the scenes with seafood in them.  They actually had to teach me how to open everything.  So, whenever it came to the scene, they threw everything on the table, we did it, and then we kept eating.  The director said, “Cut!,” but we never stopped.  We just kept eating.  He said, “I said, cut!,” and we were like, “We know!”

Quvenzhane Wallis beasts of the southern wildWas there anything about making this movie that was scary? 

WALLIS:  Touching the big black pig when it was something I could see.  Whenever I was nose to snout, they did a three-dimensional thing.  When I did the voice-overs, I saw little clips to get the emotion, and they had green monsters running on the screen.  They had to do extra stuff for that.  It was very cool to see what they did.  

How did director Benh Zeitlin most help you on this shoot, with your performance?

WALLIS:  He would tell me a few things.  He would tell me a fairy tale, or something that would give me an idea for it.  I just went along with it.  That’s how it worked.

What do you like the most about Hushpuppy?

WALLIS:  She has a cool father.  I love him.  He’s a good person.  And she just has this personality that shows in her emotions, on her face and with her body, and sometimes with just one or two words.  I really didn’t have to say anything.  I like her, that way.  But, she needs to wear more pants.  Everyone either wears a skirt, a dress or pants. 

Dwight Henry Quvenzhane Wallis beasts of the southern wildAre you someone who likes to play pretend, and do you ever pretend to be Hushpuppy?

WALLIS:  I would love to be her.  But, I usually play with my friends on the street and what we do is play school.  They would always put me as the student ‘cause I was the youngest one, but now I tell ‘em, “I don’t wanna be the student anymore.  I wanna be the teacher ‘cause then I can tell ‘em something.”  It’s fun.  Sometimes I go in my room and see the orange underwear in my drawer.  I love to see them, all the time.  It brings back memories.

Dwight Henry, who plays your dad in the movie, is a chef and a baker and works at a place down in New Orleans.  What kind of relationship did you have with him?

WALLIS:  On set, one day, we did a cooking thing.  We did macaroni and cheese, chocolate chip cookies for his bakery, stuffed bell peppers, and all that kind of stuff, and we all ate it together.

What was it like to get to do 12 Years A Slave? 

WALLIS:  That was fun.  That was something I would like to do over and over and over again.  It’s all fun.  Nothing else matters, except that I have fun, and I’m still having fun.

beasts-of-the-southern-wild-posterIs there something that you would really like to do next, now that so many people know who you are and you have an Oscar nomination?

WALLIS:  Either another film or an animated film, where I can be an animal.  

Would you be excited by the idea of doing a movie musical?

WALLIS:  Of course! 

How have you been dealing with the whole award show experience?  Is it fun or it is overwhelming?

WALLIS:  It’s all fun, but sometimes it’s a little cuckoo.  But, you have to go through it. 

Since the movie has come out and all these cool things have happened, who was the coolest person you’ve gotten to meet?

WALLIS:  Actually, they tricked me by telling me we were going to go to some meetings.  We had just finished doing some photo shoots, but we went to A.N.T. Farm, which is on the Disney Channel.  It stands for Advanced Natural Talents, and it’s about kids in high school.  So, I went there and it was fun.  When we went, the characters were there and it was fun to see them.

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