L.A. Film Festival: 8-year-old star of 'Beasts' comes to Hollywood [Video]
In the two years since she filmed her lead role in the mystical drama "Beasts of the Southern Wild," the elementary school student has ventured to Utah, the south of France and now Hollywood. The lead in Fox Searchlight's critically acclaimed movie walked the red carpet at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Friday, where "Beasts" premiered to local audiences after playing at both Sundance and Cannes this year.
Though Wallis is already becoming a festival veteran, she acted her age on Friday, where she was flanked by her mom while she did interviews. At first, she answered most questions with only one word:
"Have you ever been to Hollywood before?" we asked.
"No," she replied.
"How has it been so far?"
"Good," she said.
"Is it cool to walk down the red carpet?"
"Yes," she answered, beginning to loosen up. She added that she imagined the red carpet would be different, saying she thought it would have "some steps going up and stuff." (That's probably because the carpet at Cannes is situated that way, but the LA. Film Fest is a bit less glamorous.)
In her role as Hushpuppy, Wallis is at the heart of the film playing a self-sufficient young girl whose dying father teaches her to fend for herself in a fictionalized Lousiana town called the Bathtub. Director Benh Zeitlin auditioned thousands of young girls before settling upon Wallis, who was actually 5 at the time she tried out for the part. Wallis said she saw a casting call for the movie in her local library and auditioned for Hushpuppy even though the filmmakers said they were seeking a girl between 6 and 9.
Wallis said she had never thought about what the word "actress" meant before starring in "Beasts" but that she learned quickly.
"[Benh] didn't tell me anything. I just did what I did," she said of her acting method.
Asked whom she was hoping to meet on her L.A. jaunt, Wallis said she most hoped to encounter "Wizards of Waverly Place" star Selena Gomez.
Her attention span waning, Wallis appeared ready to head inside the theater, but not before leaving us with this piece of Hollywood wisdom:
"You should be at the after-party," she advised, "and the after-after party."
— Amy Kaufman
Photo: Quvenzhané Wallis stars in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Credit: Fox Searchlight.