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The 25 Youngest Oscar Nominees of All Time

Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit
Paramount

When does a child actor stop being merely precocious and enter the pantheon of acting gods? You know the gods of which we speak; they look down from their mighty pedestals as we shower them with tributes year after year… THE OSCAR NOMINEES.

Well, in order to walk through that threshold into Hollywood's elite circle, these young folks have to have chops, serious chops. Or be really, really cute. Either way, it takes sacrifice, hard work and possibly some crazy-ass stage parents.

In honor of this year's youthful nominees Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit") and Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone"), and for your continued cinematified education, we present the youngest ever Academy Award nominees and winners from throughout the history of the awards.

Justin Henry, 'Kramer vs. Kramer' (1979)

Justin Henry in "Kramer vs. Kramer"
Columbia Pictures

Age: 8
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (Youngest Nominee)
A troubled family is at the center of 1979's "Kramer Vs. Kramer," where Henry played the son of Dustin Hoffman's career-obsessed father. When his mother (Meryl Streep) leaves, the father and son overcome their mutual resentment and learn to love each other. Aside from a minor role as Molly Ringwald's brother in "Sixteen Candles," Henry hasn't had much of a career per-se, currently working as a Regional Director of Sales at the website Veoh. He waits patiently to reprise his nominated role in the inevitable crossover, "Kramer Vs. Kramer Vs. Alien Vs. Predator."

Jackie Cooper, 'Skippy' (1931)

Jackie Cooper in "Skippy"
Paramount

Age: 9
Nomination: Best Actor (Youngest Winner)
You might know him best as Daily Planet editor Perry White in the Christopher Reeve-era "Superman" flicks, but Cooper became a child actor in the late 1920s as one of the "Little Rascals." In 1931 he was "loaned" to Paramount to play the rambunctious lead of "Skippy," based on the popular comic strip. Though not so well known today, "Skippy" is filled with milestones, being the only film based on a comic or graphic novel nominated for Best Picture, and the youngest Best Director win for Norman Taurog (32). Cooper himself is also the earliest still-living nominee in any category. Wow.

Mary Badham, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1962)

Mary Bradham in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Universal Pictures

Age: 10
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Youngest Nominee)
Badham lost her Oscar to Patty Duke in 1962, but lives on in pop culture as the irrepressible Scout in the film version of Harper Lee's perennial high school-read "Mockingbird." She continued a lifelong friendship with co-star Gregory Peck, continuing to refer to him by his character name Atticus. As for Boo Radley, we assume she saved the nickname "boo" for her husband. The younger sister of "Saturday Night Fever" director John Badham, Mary retired from acting after a few more years of minor roles.

Tatum O'Neal, 'Paper Moon' (1973)

Tatum O'Neal in "Paper Moon"
Paramount Pictures

Age: 10
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Youngest Winner)
This is it. If there's a child comedy acting equivalent to the Sistine Chapel, it has to be prodigious young Tatum acting alongside her poppa Ryan in Peter Bogdanovich's 1973 comic caper "Paper Moon." As one half of a Depression-era father/daughter con team, she created a cigarette-smoking tomboy with a heart of gold. The dialogue between the two of them is priceless:
Moses: I got scruples too, you know. You know what that is? Scruples?
Addie: No, I don't know what it is, but if you got 'em, it's a sure bet they belong to somebody else!

Abigail Breslin, 'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006)

Abigail Breslin in "Little Miss Sunshine"
Fox Searchlight

Age: 10
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress
We just want to thank Olive's heroin-snorting grandpa for teaching her the super freaky moves that won the hearts of audiences everywhere (but not the title competition) when this indie sensation came out in 2006. We'd also like to thank the sweetly adorkable Breslin for making all the other Olives out there believe in themselves, and huge thanks to her mom and dad for… oh wait, this isn't a beauty pageant, sorry. Now 14, Breslin has continued to impress in comedies like "Zombieland," and in 2010 followed in Patty Duke's footsteps as Helen Keller in a Broadway revival of "Miracle Worker."

Quinn Cummings, 'The Goodbye Girl' (1977)

Warner Bros.

Age: 10
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress
As Marsha Mason's 10-year-old daughter Lucy in Neil Simon's hilarious rom-com, Cummings virtually created the now stand-by trope of the little girl who doles out funny, overly-wise advice to adults. She says of Richard Dreyfuss' neurotic actor character, "I think he's kinda cute, he reminds me of a dog that nobody wants." Interestingly, Dreyfuss was at the time the youngest Best Actor recipient for this movie, and held the title for 25 years until Adrien Brody's "The Pianist." Cummings retired from acting in '91, and is now a blogger and inventor of a baby carrier.

Anna Paquin, 'The Piano' (1993)

Anna Paquin in "The Piano"
Miramax

Age: 11
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress
The second-youngest Oscar-winner in history, after Tatum, is the adorable Ms. Paquin, who captured a mystifying quality quite rare in child performances. She plays the daughter of a mute Scotswoman (Holly Hunter) who only communicates through her piano, and their experiences living under a stifling New Zealand frontiersman. After a few mid-level films, her career caught fire again with her touching role (get it?) as Rogue in the "X-Men" trilogy. She branched out that southern accent of hers as a telepath with a thing for vampires on the HBO hit "True Blood."

Haley Joel Osment, 'The Sixth Sense' (1999)

Haley Joel Osment in "The Sixth Sense"
Spyglass

Age: 11
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor
No disrespect to his memorable turns in "A.I." or as Forrest Gump Jr., but Haley Joel will (ironically) have "I see dead people" engraved on his tombstone. His eerily mature portrayal of the haunted Cole Sear in M. Night Shyamalan's sleeper mega-hit made him iconic, and supposedly Steven Spielberg's choice for Harry Potter. Osment's last high-profile role was in 2003's "Secondhand Lions," and he's since dabbled in stagework, videogame voiceovers, and DUIs, but at 22 he's a long way from "over." That other former kid actor with three names, Jackie Earle Haley, taught us that you can't keep a good actor down.

Brandon De Wilde, 'Shane' (1953)

Shane
Paramount

Age: 11
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor
The Justin Bieber of his day, De Wilde was a multi-talented prodigy whose Oscar-nominated turn in the Alan Ladd western "Shane" cemented his teen idoldom, making him a mainstay in Disney productions and the star of his own sitcom. He then set about triumphing on the stage, screen, Broadway, and as a musician, befriending superstars like Paul McCartney and Gram Parsons. Tragically, in 1972 his life was cut short by an auto accident and he died at the age of 30.

Patty McCormack, 'The Bad Seed' (1956)

Bad Seed
Warner Bros.

Age: 11
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress
A camp favorite of directors like Eli Roth and John Waters, "The Bad Seed" introduced audiences to the original kid from hell: Rhoda Penmark, played with devilish good fun by McCormack. Rhoda seems to be all pigtails, sugar and spice, but turns out she's a cold-blooded killer, and the seed of another famous serial killer, hence the title. McCormack has continued acting sporadically since, including a recent high-profile role as Pat Nixon in Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon."

Keisha Castle-Hughes, 'Whale Rider' (2002)

Keisha Castle Hughes in "Whale Rider"
Newmarket Films

Age: 13
Nomination: Best Actress (Youngest Nominee)
The first Polynesian nominee on top of being the youngest, this precocious New Zealand girl was only 11 when she shot 2002's "Rider," the tale of a female trying to exert the right to lead her tribe despite not being a man. She eventually proves her worth by, you know, ridin' a freakin' whale. Duh. She proved equally precocious a few years later, when the unmarried Castle-Hughes gave birth to her first child at age 17, which caused a ruckus as she was playing the Virgin Mary at the time in "The Nativity Story." Talk about method acting, budda-boom-ching!

Saoirse Ronan, 'Atonement' (2007)

Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement"
Focus Features

Age: 13
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress
Born in New York, this Irish lass first caught our eye as Briony Tallis, a young writer who falsely accuses her older sister's lover of a crime, in "Atonement." The book's author Ian McEwan said, "She gives us thought process right on-screen, even before she speaks, and conveys so much with her eyes." After the nomination, she won the coveted lead in Peter Jackson's "Lovely Bones," and will soon give Hit-Girl a run for her money as a little trained assassin in "Hanna." Kick-ass!

Hailee Steinfeld, 'True Grit' (2010)

Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit"
Paramount Pictures

Age: 14
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress
This currently nominated "True Grit" star has true talent, and even though she's nominated in the supporting category, never think for a second that this isn't her movie. Jeff Bridges gets top-billing 'cause he's The Dude, but the story is all Mattie Ross and her quest to find the dummy who done done-in her daddy. Her anal-retentive, erudite teenage girl clashes with the craggly Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), but by the end something about Mattie reaches the old fat man's heart, as she does ours. Best of luck, Hailee!

Jodie Foster, 'Taxi Driver' (1976)

Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver
Sony

Age: 14
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress
Playing a streetwise 12-year-old prostitute under the thumb of a skeezy pimp (played by Harvey Keitel) in Martin Scorsese's 1976 classic would have been a challenge for any young actress, even an adult one who looked the part. Foster, as you know, is a very special talent, and the astonishing thing at play in her scenes is not even that she holds her own with a titan like De Niro, but that she truly carries herself like a grown up, someone who has lived twice the life of any girl her age. This is not a child actress acting adult-like in an amusing way, but a child conveying the utter loss of childhood.

Patty Duke, 'The Miracle Worker' (1962)

Patty Duke in "The Miracle Worker"
Universal Pictures

Age: 16
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress
Duke and Anne Bancroft reprised their Broadway roles of blind and deaf girl Helen Keller and her blind teacher Anne Sullivan in 1962's film version of "Miracle Worker." Duke almost lost the role since Keller was supposed to be only 7 during the story, but fate prevailed and she followed this Oscar win with an eponymous sitcom, "The Patty Duke Show." In 1979 she played the Sullivan part in a TV remake, and later became a mental health advocate. Somewhere in there she found time to give birth to goonie Sean Astin, aka Samwise Gamgee from "Lord of the Rings."

Jack Wild, 'Oliver!' (1968)

Oliver!
Sony

Age: 16
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor
After winning acclaim and the Academy nod for playing the skilled pickpocket The Artful Dodger in the musical version of Dickens' classic "Oliver Twist," Wild found continued fame on Sid & Marty Krofft's late-60's acid-trip kids show "H.R. Pufnstuf." When the excitement of playing make-believe with giant felt creatures that look like they rode out of your darkest nightmares waned, he turned to music, and when that fell by the wayside, booze. After recovery in the late '80s, Wild spent most of his remaining career in stage productions. He passed away in 2006 from a long bout with cancer, only 53 years old.

Sal Mineo, 'Rebel Without a Cause' (1955)

Rebel Without a Cause
Warner Bros.

Age: 17
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor
This Italian kid from The Bronx made his mark in Hollywood as the young teen enamored with James Dean's rebellious troublemaker in 1955's "Rebel," and for awhile Mineo was beating off film offers and sexy ladies with a rowing oar. Then he got typecast as a troubled teen, and everything dried up. After many attempts to jumpstart his career, including some popular roles on the stage, Mineo was tragically stabbed to-death in an alleyway robbery. The killer had no idea who he was.

River Phoenix, "Running On Empty" (1988)

River Phoenix in "Running on Empty"
Warner Bros.

Age: 18
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor
Poor River. Possibly the most promising actor of his generation had his light extinguished by drugs outside the Viper Room in 1993. Only a few years before he was sitting in the Shrine Auditorium alongside fellow nominees like Kevin Kline or Alec Guinness, and he was indeed in their league. Nominated for his role in "Empty" as a teenage boy trying to break free from the life imposed on him by fugitive parents, check this scene between he and Martha Plimpton to see that, like James Dean before and Heath Ledger after, we lost one of the greats…

Leonardo DiCaprio, 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' (1993)

What's Eating Gilbert Grape
Paramount

Age: 19
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor
As Robert Downey Jr. said in "Tropic Thunder," an actor should never go "full-retard," but unlike Ben Stiller in that comedy, Leo really lent his heart and soul to playing the vulnerable, childlike Arnie in "Gilbert Grape" opposite title character Johnny Depp. DiCaprio seamlessly captured the look and mannerisms of a developmentally disabled person at the most broad (climbing a water tower) and most sensitive ends of the spectrum. The role helped launch Leo into the stratosphere, where he remains.

Mickey Rooney, 'Babes in Arms' (1939)

Mickey Rooney in "Babes in Arms"
MGM

Age: 19
Nomination: Best Actor
The Mickster, still active today at age 90, has literally been performing since he was 17 months old, so he has traces of Vaudeville, classic Hollywood, and modern television & stagework coursing through his bloodstream, right up to "Night At The Museum." In one of many pairings of Rooney and Judy Garland, 1939's "Babes in Arms" sports several catchy tunes including "Good Morning," later made famous in "Singin' in the Rain." Interestingly, the third-youngest Best Actor nominee is… Mickey Rooney again, at age 23 for "The Human Comedy."

Timothy Hutton, 'Ordinary People' (1980)

Timothy Hutton in "Ordinary People"
Paramount Pictures

Age: 20
Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (Youngest Winner)
As the troubled, suicidal teen still dealing with the loss of his brother amid family strife in Robert Redford's "Ordinary People," the handsome young Hutton seemed poised for superstardom. However, after winning he fell prey to the "Oscar Curse," and once most of his 80s starring vehicles died at the box office he became sidelined to supporting roles. Things have turned around for Hutton in the last few years, though, with his lead-role in TNT's hit series "Leverage."

Jennifer Lawrence, 'Winter's Bone' (2010)

Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone"
Roadside Attractions

Age: 20
Nomination: Best Actress
Hollywood being what it is, most of the plum roles for women skew towards twenty-ish ladies. Lawrence is the latest to benefit from this paradigm, receiving gobs of applause for her tough-as-nails performance in the indie drama "Winter's Bone," now known as Wayne & Garth's favorite Oscar pick. As a teenage girl trying to find her meth-dealin' daddy in the rural Ozarks, she exudes a confidence that already landed her in next summer's blockbuster "X-Men: First Class."

Keira Knightley, 'Pride and Prejudice' (2005)

Keira Knightly in "Pride and Prejudice"
Focus Features

Age: 20
Nomination: Best Actress
Knightley swashbuckled her way from high-seas adventure to Academy recognition, all with a little help from Jane Austen. Playing heroine Elizabeth Bennet for Joe Wright's 2005 version of "Prejudice" tickled the fancy of the AMPAS, while she and Wright struck gold again with a nomination two years later for "Atonement." As she famously exclaimed in the first "Pirates" movie, "You like pain? Try wearing a corset!" We like your pain, Keira, we really like it!

Ellen Page, 'Juno' (2007)

Ellen Page in "Juno"
Fox Searchlight

Age: 20
Nomination: Best Actress
Way before she got incepted by Chris Nolan, this spunky Canadian put herself on the radar in 2005 with a savagely intense performance in "kid-tortures-pedophile" masterpiece "Hard Candy." She then took a 180-degree turn with the cute, sassy teen pregnancy comedy "Juno," where, thanks to Diablo Cody's whip-smart one-liners ("Honest to blog?"), she secured her place on the A-list, as well as the Academy list. Take our word, she's this generation's Jodie Foster, and at age 23 still has a nice cushion of time to prove it.

Marlee Matlin, 'Children of a Lesser God' (1986)

Marlee Matlin in "Children of a Lesser God"
Paramount

Age: 21
Nomination: Best Actress (Youngest Winner)
Like Mickey Rooney, this remarkable actress's career also cemented when only a little over a year old, but that's not when she began acting… it's when she lost her hearing. Thus, Matlin knew intimately the trials of living as a deaf person, and brilliantly transferred that experience to 1986's "Children" opposite William Hurt, in a torn relationship between two stubborn people, one of which can't hear (guess which). One of the few actors to win for their film debut, she parlayed that fame into a broad range of roles in film/TV, and even dated Hurt for a few years, so win-win.

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