An Oscar Nomination For A Child Usually Means Nothing Good

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oscar curseThe much publicized “Oscars Curse” may plague adult women who achieve the coveted Best Actress Award. But if we take a look back through history, an Oscar win or nod to a child actor is usually prelude to personal disaster or a complete career stall.

Ever since our beloved Shirley Temple was handed an honorary Oscar in 1934, a child being honored at the Academy Awards is a questionable moment as evidenced in later drug addiction, alcoholism, poor personal choices, or even death. Tatum O’Neal earned an Academy Award at 10 years old for her role in Paper Moon and she has since spent a big chunk of her adulthood openly struggling with heroin and cocaine addiction. Heartthrob River Phoenix was acknowledged with an Oscar nomination in 1988 when he was 17. Five years later, he famously died of a drug-induced heart failure outside a night club in Los Angeles.

Haley Joel Osment, made forever famous for his “I see dead people” whisper in The Sixth Sense, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1999. Shortly after turning 18, the child star was in a car accident and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and a misdemeanor drug possession. Of course, Patty Duke‘s only crime after her win for The Miracle Worker seems to be crawling into bed with Lucille Ball‘s underage son. But she did overdose on a pills a few times and also struggled with anorexia. Keisha Castle-Hughes nominated for her role in Whale Rider when she was just 11 years also encountered a bit of trouble down the road. Although not nearly equatable with drug addiction, the young actress found herself pregnant and gave birth to a little girl just a month after her 17th birthday.

Other notable child nominees simply stopped working altogether following their recognition, having reach the pinnacle of success at such a young age. Mary Badham (To Kill A Mockingbird) famously retired at 16 and Quinn Cummings (The Goodbye Girl) also quit acting not long after becoming a legal adult.

The noteworthy Jodie Foster, who was nominated for her role as a tween prostitute in Taxi Driver, and Anna Paquin, nominated at 11 years old for her role in The Piano, as well as Patty McCormack from the very chilling The Bad Seed remain as the few child actresses who have escaped the curse with a robust film career. Abigail Breslin, who was nominated in 2007 for her role in Little Miss Sunshine, has yet to procure any DUIs, drug addictions, or other child star baggage as far as has been reported. And the worst Hailee Steinfeld has done since her 2011 nomination for True Grit is appear in some banned Miu Miu advertisements.

While child stars in general tend to find themselves on a tragic tajectory, an Oscar recognition does often not seem to steer them any closer to safety. Whether hastening them on their path to self destruction or ultimately suffocating their chances at a strong career, the Academy Awards is actually no place any loving mother would want to see her child.



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  3. Clericsdaughter

    February 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I try not to be a Grammar Nazi at the drop of a hat, but in this case, the sheer number of errors is enough that I just have to question the editing on this article. “Wale Rider,” well, I can let that go if it’s all by itself. “Jody Foster” is also a mistake anyone could make, although still unprofessional when it ends up on the page. But “pinochle of success”? There’s more to proofreading than just spell check, you know.

    • Koa Beck

      February 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      Not at all Clericsdaughter. Grammar Nazis welcome. Thanks for pointing out.

  4. Genevieve

    February 27, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Keisha castle hughes, was in a stable relationship and is a fantastic mother who is still acting and doing well in NZ. She does a heap for charity too.

    She is by no means to be lumped in the pile with the addicts, arrested, and anorexics

  5. Chas W

    February 27, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Elijah Wood seems to be doing OK, having starred in the hugely-successful Lord of the Rings trilogy. His only other adult role I can think of was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (Nor have I heard of front page stories in the tabloids, not that I pay close attention.)

    However (if not playing hobbits) it may be difficult for males of short stature to be successful in Hollywood. Leading men are expected to be tall.

  6. Amanda

    February 28, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Seriously, do your homework. Anna Paquin was nominated, yes, but she also won.

    I really want to like Mommyish. I really do. But there is a consistent lack of professionalism and I swear that nearly every article I’ve personally read is wrought with blunders and erroneous information. It’s quite nauseating how little care most authors here take with their authored pieces. Considering most articles are a few short paragraphs, this is unforgivable.

    • Amanda

      February 28, 2012 at 1:16 am

      I almost forgot to mention that you should KNOW with absolute certainty that Anna Paquin won the Oscar as you chose to use her picture for this article.

    • Lindsay Cross

      February 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Amanda, I’m really sorry that you were upset that Koa didn’t specify who actually won Academy Awards, as opposed to those simply nominated.

      I think that the piece itself was focusing simply on nominations for young actors and how that might effect their life. It really wasn’t concentrating on whether they won or not, which might be why Koa didn’t mention it.

      As you said, she obviously knew that Paquin won, given the picture.

      I’m sorry that you’re frustrated with what you saw as an inaccuracy, but I think that it more about the focus her piece than an error or oversight. I hope that you’ll continue to read and share your thoughts with us.

    • Another Steph

      February 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      I agree with everything you’ve just said Amanda. I do wonder if something has changed at Mommyish recently, as the errors seem to have increased tenfold within the past couple of days.

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    November 12, 2020 at 6:59 pm

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