Spotlight: Youngest Oscar Winners | News & Features | Cinema Online
Showtimes
 
Features

Spotlight: Youngest Oscar Winners

Writer: Casey Lee


Guess how old were these Oscar winners when they won their awards?

Filmmakers, much like artists, spend an incredible amount of years to hone their craft, refining it to such a deep level of nuance that we as audiences sometimes take for granted the amount of time and training it took to crack that smile or make that artistic call.

For those who have dedicated themselves to the craft (and with a little bit of luck), there is only the hope that someday their dedication would be recognised with an award, and there are few awards that they would like to vindicate them than the Oscars.

Then there are those, somehow blessed by the winds of the muses from birth, that rage into the scene like a storm, blasting away refined practice with a sheer force of will and talent, that they deserve recognition for bringing something that would take lifetimes for a revered actor to accomplish.

Throughout its coming to 88 years of history, the Academy Awards has certainly bore witness to such outrageous talents, with some burning out as quickly as they came. While age may kill an artist, but art does not recognise age.

Here we present the youngest people who have come and gone in claiming the most precious prize one could ask as an actor or director in Hollywood. To keep this a guessing game, we start off with the oldest of these winners down to the youngest of them all.

Best Director - Norman Taurog

Introduced to the world as a child performer with his movie debut at the age of 13, Norman Taurog would eventually enter into the world of filmmaking as a director in 1919. It was his breakthrough 1931 film "Skippy"; an adaptation of the comedy comic strip by Percy Crosby, that landed Taurog his first Oscar for Best Director at the age of 32 in the 4th Academy Awards. Its lead, a then 9-year-old Jackie Cooper, would also be the youngest nominee for a Best Actor that remains to this day.

Being the first on this list may mean that he is the oldest among the names here to win an Oscar, but Taurag's record has held the longest among them, and remains unbroken for soon to be 57 years. Taurog would later be nominated for another Oscar as Best Director for 1938's "Boys Town" at the 12th Academy Awards in 1939, but his win for "Skippy" remains as his only Oscar until his death in 1981. However, Taurog ended his prolific film career with 180 films to his name.

Best Actor - Adrien Brody

Put into acting school by his parents to distance himself from bad influences, Adrien Brody had already established his talents as an actor through works with directors like Spike Lee in "Bullet" and Terrence Malick in "Thin Red Line". When Brody was cast to lead in Roman Polanski's adaptation of the memoirs of Holocaust survivor and Polish-Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman, Brody threw away everything he had to embody the role. Selling his home and car, ending a relationship he was in then, and losing nearly 30 pounds of weight, Brody's dedication and despair as "The Pianist" was both shocking and saddening that also channeled Polanski's own experience as a Holocaust survivor.

For that, in the 75th Academy Award in 2003, Brody took the Oscar for Best Actor at the age of 29, beating out his seniors Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Daniel-Day Lewis and Jack Nicholson. Since then, Brody may never come within range of another Oscar nomination, much less another win, but he has maintained a respectable acting career with regular appearances for Wes Anderson, and had nearly became The Joker in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight", before it was eventually given to the late Heath Ledger.

Best Actress - Marlee Matlin

Marlee Matlin was 12 when she was noticed by actor Henry Winkler in one of her theater plays, and was mentored and encouraged into an acting career despite her parents' wishes. After enjoying Tony award-winning success, stage writers Mark Medoff and Hesper Anderson adapted Medoff's "Children of a Lesser God" into a screenplay to be made into a film. In 1986, Matlin made her feature debut as a deaf cleaner who falls in love with a speech teacher who insists on teaching her how to speak, with the resulting strain leading to a terrible breakdown of their relationship.

In 1987, out of five Oscar nominations, Matlin was the sole winner for "Children of a Lesser God" for the Best Actress at the age of 21. Matlin's win not only made her the youngest winner for the Best Actress since (almost dethroned by Jennifer Lawrence who won her first when she was 22), but she still remains as the only Oscar winner who is actually deaf, after losing her hearing when she was an infant. Matlin went on to build an acting career that her parents thought impossible, snatching up 4 Emmy nominations, a SAG nomination, and 3 Golden Globes nominations (winning one of them for "Children of a Lesser God") along the way.

Best Supporting Actor - Timothy Hutton

Born to an actor, Timothy Hutton's entry to film was through the hardest route; television. Then in 1980, making his film debut in Robert Redford's own directorial debut "Ordinary People", Hutton plays the survivor of two sons who died in a boating accident, becoming the catalyst for the psychological torment of his upper-middle class family, parented by Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore. While the parents cannot find who should be blamed in their responsibility for their son's death, Hutton had the unforgiving task of portraying the son with survivor's guilt, blaming only himself for his brother's alleged accidental death. "Ordinary People" went on to make Oscar winners out of its director and Hutton for Best Supporting Actor at the age of 20, lowering the age held by its previous holder, George Chakiris, who won the award at 27 for "West Side Story".

Since then, Hutton returned to television and still continues to build his acting career there where he later earned a couple of Golden Globe nominations.

Best Supporting Actress - Tatum O'Neal

As the daughter to parents who are actors, Tatum O'Neal was 9 when she filmed "Paper Moon" alongside her father, Ryan O'Neal, in 1972. Playing as a father-daughter duo of con artists set on a roadtrip during the black-and-white Depression Era, "Paper Moon" garnered 3 Oscar nominations in 1973, with a now 10-year-old Tatum awarded with the Best Supporting Actress. Tatum became the youngest winner not just for the category, but for any competitive Academy Award to this day.

The future was set to be bright for a young Tatum, but her acting career sputtered out after 1985, as she was later caught up with life's problems from her broken marriage, drug addiction to reconciling with her father, who, she confessed in her autobiography had physically and emotionally abused her when she was young.


Cinema Online, 21 February 2016


Related Links:
Showtimes