The Beasts of the Southern Wild team is having a very good morning. The little film that could, which debuted last year at Sundance (and won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic there, as well as the Caméra d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival), got a total of four nominations this morning, including for youngest-ever Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (now 9), Best Director Benh Zeitlin, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay (Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar) and Best Picture.
When EW called up Zeitlin this morning, he was understandably thrilled – and more than a little surprised. “It’s funny because I knew I was going to be nervous and my heart was going to be racing during the Best Actress announcement,” he says. “But for director I honestly didn’t think there was any possibility that that was going to happen. And I thought they’d finished announcing the names so I wasn’t even nervous. I remember when they said [Michael] Haneke’s name I just sort of tuned out and then I just heard my name out of the back of my head and then I went into a black-out.”
As for how he’s now celebrating, “There’s a lot of exclamation points on my phone right now,” he said. “I don’t even know where to begin. I got a lot of texts predicting that this will be the Mardi Gras of a lifetime.”
That party includes Wallis. “Right now what we’ve been doing is trying to jump back and forth on the bed as many times as possible,” he says. “That’s what I used to do with my sister when I was growing up and she is my new little sister. This really is a miracle. I don’t think anything like this has ever happened before. She deserves every bit of this and she is just a miraculous human being. I can’t believe it!”
He may be thrilled right now, but come Oscar night, Zeitlin, who was nominated for his very first feature, may be just a bit overwhelmed. “I think that the most wonderful thing that I didn’t expect to be so powerful was to suddenly be part of the community of filmmakers of the world,” he says. “I don’t think I knew three filmmakers before I finished this film, and suddenly I’m getting to meet heroes of mine, directors who are nominated in my category who taught me how to make films when I was a kid watching VHS films. They’ve seen my movie! I think the Oscars is a million crazy things, but at its heart, maybe it’s a moment where the community of filmmakers gets to be in the same place and talk to each other, and that’s been really special to me.”
(Reporting by Karen Valby)