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Exclusive: Beasts Director Benh Zeitlin Talks Oscar Nods, NOLA
This week's news about Beasts of the Southern Wild’s four Oscar nominations hasn’t altered much for the Bayou-set film's director, Benh Zeitlin. A native of New York City, the director became enamored with New Orleans and South Louisiana after moving here in his mid 20s. However, Zeitlin says it’ll take a lot more than a couple gold statues to tear him away from the Crescent City.
Zeitlin is up for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (along with co-writer Lucy Alibar), and Best Picture. Pint-size starlet Quvenzhane Wallis is nominated for Best Actress, making her the youngest lady ever to receive a nod in the category.
Zeitlin cast natives Wallis and Dwight Henry in the film’s lead roles, and he used South Louisiana as a backdrop for the epic tale. Wallis, a Houma girl, didn’t have any acting experience before she took on the challenging role of Hushpuppy, a gutsy six-year-old on a quest to find her mother. Henry owns the Buttermilk Drop (1781 N. Dorgenois), and he played “Wink,” Hushpuppy’s tough-loving father, in Beasts.
Other than the Big Night in the other LA, Zeitlin doesn’t see the Oscars changing much for him in the long term.
“Well, the next six weeks are looking real different. But after that I’ll be back home writing on the next film. The long term plan hasn’t changed,” Zeitlin said.
Zeitlin plans on taking his sister and her potbelly pig, H, to the awards ceremony. “H-Pig’s” trot down the red carpet is “pending approval by the Academy.”
In response to whether or not the Oscar-nominated director plans on staying in the Big Easy, Zeitlin replied, “HYFR, (hell yeah, fucking right).” The director remains grateful for his actors, his setting in LaFourche Parish, and the city he’s grown to love. “Thank you, New Orleans! I miss you, and I love you.”
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