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Child Prodigy, Talk of the Oscars

Stacy M. Brown | 2/27/2013, 11:08 a.m.

Quvenzhane Wallis to Star in New 'Annie' Film

The nine-year-old wunderkind didn't win the Oscar for Best Actress Sunday night in Los Angeles, but what Quvenzhane Wallis did win was the hearts of everyone who watched the telecast.

That also included her much older colleagues in the motion picture industry.

"She is an extraordinary young talent with an amazing range, not only as an actress but as a singer and dancer," said Hannah Minghella, president of production at Columbia Pictures, the company that recently announced it has cast Quvenzhane as the lead in the Will and Jada Smith upcoming big screen production of "Annie."

Seated directly in front of Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington and a host of other Hollywood veterans, Quvenzhane enthusiastically waved her arms in the air each time a clip of her movie, "Beast of the Southern Wild," was shown at the Dolby Theatre.

And, when Jennifer Lawrence's name was called as Best Actress, the little girl didn't hesitate to applaud her competitor and maintain a smile as bright as her Hollywood future.

"Adorable and bright," E! News' Ryan Seacrest said.

Quvenzhane's portrayal of six-year-old, "Hushpuppy," in "Beast of the Southern Wild," made her the youngest Best Actress nominee in history. The movie is set in a forgotten Bayou community that's separated from the rest of the world by a levee. Hushpuppy lives with her father, Wink, in the Bathtub, a southern Delta community at the edge of the world.

Wink's mission, though sometimes obscured by his eccentric behavior, is to prepare Hushpuppy for a world of danger and uncertainty and perhaps to become an orphan. When Wink contracts a mysterious illness and things totally unravel, Hushpuppy sets out on a mission to find her mother.

"It's been crazy," Quvenzhane told Seacrest at the Oscars.

While the Oscar ride has been a wild one for the young star, she may choose to take a page out of the Hollywood survival book of the Best Actor nominated Washington.

The Malcolm X star, who has won two Academy Awards for his roles in "Training Day," and "Glory," said he doesn't often associate with other actors.

"Even within the industry, I don't have any actor friends," Washington told Us magazine just before the show. "My friends are old friends. One's an ex-music guy, the other's a restaurant owner and the other's an ex-pro ball player."

Washington said the various parties and Hollywood gatherings aren't important to him because those events are often filled with people kissing up to one another. "Maybe, I'm not a butt kisser," Washington said. "Maybe, I'm not a schmoozer. I'm not about to go to a party to try to get a job. And then when you have children, the other friends become other parents. We'd coach baseball or basketball. My wife and I were raised right," he said.

Washington also scoffed at the notion of being a celebrity. "I'm a working actor," he said. "What's a celebrity anyway? Paris Hilton's a celebrity. I'm just a working actor."

Washington was nominated for his role in the movie, "Flight," but the Oscar went to Daniel Day Lewis for his portrayal of "Lincoln." Shortly after the ceremony, it was announced that "Flight," would be released Friday in India.

Washington plays a pilot in the movie who experiences a life change after he performs a daring maneuver during an airplane crash and saves the day. While he's initially hailed as a hero, investigators discovered that the pilot was intoxicated.

Like many others, Washington appeared to enjoy the festivities which included stirring performances by Jennifer Hudson, Adele, and Barbra Streisand.

"Argo," directed by Ben Affleck, won Best Picture as first lady Michelle Obama and actor Jack Nicholson helped to present the award to Affleck. Anne Hathaway won Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Les Miserables" while Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." Tarantino also won for Best Original Screenplay for "Django Unchained." The Best Director prize went to Ang Lee for "Life of Pi," a movie that also won Best Musical Score.

Halle Berry introduced a tribute to the James Bond franchise of movies, which celebrated its 50th anniversary.