With some of our young performers recently attaining professional work with premium broadcasters and companies, it is no surprise that here at IPM we have a passion for fostering juvenile talent. Not only do we nurture our child and teen performers through in-depth industry training and on-set experience, we also think it is important for them to be inspired through the performances of fellow young actors. Here we will explore some of the most impressive juvenile performances seen in films, examine what makes them stand out and evaluate what our IPM performers can be inspired by:
1. Saoirse Ronan as Bryony Tallis (age 13) in Atonement (2007)
There is no wonder that Saoirse Ronan became one of the youngest actors to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Atonement. Furthermore, it is not surprising that Ronan has gone on to become one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood, and this can nearly be foreseen through this early performance. In the role of Bryony, Ronan is subtle and seems to be acting almost entirely through her piercing blue eyes. Her natural, childlike innocence makes her a thoroughly engaging onscreen presence and her ‘outside-in’ acting approach is no doubt something for fellow young performers to be inspired by!
2. Jodie Foster as Iris in Taxi Driver (1976)
Performing the role of a 12-year-old sex worker in one of the most iconic films ever made certainly must have been a memorable experience for Jodie Foster, who has now become one of the most reputable actresses and now directors of her generation. In the part of Iris, Foster is completely electric: she exudes charisma, charm and total wit. Acting against Robert De Niro as a kid certainly must have been intimidating, but Foster plays it off with total self-assured coolness. This is certainly a performance to look up to when looking for inspiration for onscreen confidence!
3. Abigail Breslin as Bo Hess in Signs (2002)
Breslin is perhaps best-known as a child actor for her role in Little Miss Sunshine (2007), although she could be seen as even more impressive earlier in her career with her role as Bo in M. Night Shamalyan’s Signs. She gives a staggering performance as the youngest daughter in a family who undergo the strange experience of extra-terrestrials invading their home. Breslin performs in of the most convincing crying scenes: in this dinner scene, we see the totality of her character’s vulnerability and desperation. This is a performance to be inspired by when considering how to compellingly and naturally convey a diverse range of emotions.
4. Christian Bale as Jamie ‘Jim’ Graham in Empire of the Sun (1987)
It is not at all surprising that the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures invented the ‘Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor’ in the wake of Bale’s tremendous early performance in this film. Bale conveys an outstanding versatility in this role, varying between a spoilt child living with his ex-pat family in Shanghai to an orphan left wandering the streets following the Japanese invasion. We may primarily associate Christian Bale with his strongly masculine, belligerent roles in the later Dark Knight Trilogyand The Fighter,although Empire of the Sunconveys the subtler, understated nature that Bale has about himself. This performance can inspire us through its naturalness and variability.
5. Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Despite being a younger age than what the original casting call had requested, Quvenzhané Wallis impressed with her head-strong personality to such an extent that she was cast immediately, and the brief was even changed to adapt to her as a performer. She is truly remarkable in this film: obstinate, assertive and thoroughly mesmerising while playing a young girl living in Louisiana with her father. In spite of her lack of previous acting experience, Wallis commands the screen and demonstrates that sometimes, it is simply a matter of drawing from one’s natural emotions and instincts for a performance.
5.Jacob Tremblay as Jack Newsome in Room(2015)
Brie Larson may have been the performer to win an Oscar for Room, although it seems shocking that the young Jacob Tremblay was not in with a nomination as his role as the protagonist’s son born in captivity. In this film, Tremblay conveys an overwhelming combination of innocence, fear, vulnerability and naivety which would completely overshadow some trained adult actors. The onscreen charisma he shares with Larson is extremely touching, and the intensity that Tremblay manages to generate in his performance as Jack is truly electrifying.
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