The 13-year-old actress made her acting debut in the low-budget New Zealand film, “Whale Rider”. The film was hailed by critics and most highlighted the exceptional acting of Castle-Hughes, who played the title character. She made such an impression that the Academy nominated her for a Best Actress award, making her the youngest actress to even be nominated for a lead role.
Keisha Castle-Hughes was caught by surprise by the nomination. “My Mum came running into my room saying Keisha, you’ve just been nominated!. I was like, I thought I was still sleeping. I thought I’ll be happy in the morning,” she told New Zealand National Radio on Wednesday.
The “Whale Rider” made quite a splash with critics, when the endearing story of Paikea, a young girl that fights Maori tradition and her grandfather when her “tribe must contend with a female as their leader after her twin brother dies a childbirth, and she must struggle to prove herself.” Although the story centers on a Maori tribe’s battle with coming to terms with the past and present, the film carried a universal message that was well received by both critics and audiences.
However, Castle-Hughes faces some stiff competition for the Oscar. She goes up against the favorite, Charlize Theron, who recently won a Golden Globe for portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster.
Castle-Hughes and Theron will also have
to contend with Diane Keaton (Something’s Gotta Give), Samantha Morton
(In America) and Naomi Watts (21 Grams).