"I keep having to pinch myself to make sure I'm actually awake. The Oscars are so big -- they're huge. I'm totally humbled and ecstatic. No words are enough to explain. It's like, wow. It's absolutely incredible." Keisha Castle-Hughes.
Despite not having had any previous acting experience, Australian-born, New Zealand actress Keisha Castle-Hughes garnered international recognition in 2004, when at age 13, she became the youngest actress ever to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award, thanks to the role of Paikea, a headstrong Maori girl who defied male tradition by becoming clan leader, in the 2002 film Whale Rider. The talented actress then went to star in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) and will soon be seen playing Virgin Mary in The Nativity Story. She is currently filming Hey, Hey, It's Esther Blueburger, alongside Toni Collette and newcomer Danielle Catanzariti in Australia.
Castle-Hughes also appeared in Prince's controversial music video for his song "Cinnamon Girl" and in Vanity Fair magazine. In October 2006, the 16-year-old actress surprisingly revealed that she and her childhood sweetheart, 19-year-old Bradley Hull, are expecting a child together next year. It is also said that the relatively young couple are excited at the prospect of being parents.
"They're all really sexual roles or they all think that I'm still 11. They send me scripts and I say that I'm too young or not old enough and they're like, 'Well just come in and see us.' And so I go in and they're like, 'Oh, you've got tall and you've got hips and you've got boobs.' And I'm like, 'Yeah. That's what happens.'” Keisha Castle-Hughes (on roles she's been offered since Whale Rider).
Childhood and Family:
"Your private life should be private. I reckon that's a good thing that you talk about your work and you talk about what you're doing, but without having to go into how your brother's been and how your mum's been because none of that's really relevant." Keisha Castle-Hughes.
In Donnybrook, Western Australia, Keisha Castle-Hughes was born on March 24, 1990. Her parents, Desrae Hughes (New Zealand Maori; runs an after-school care center for kids) Tim Castle (English- Australian; former Australian Rules player), met in Australia, but were never married. The oldest child of the family, Keisha has two younger brothers, Liam and Rhys Castle-Hughes (Rhys recently appeared in the New Zealand series “The Lost Children”), and a little sister.
At age of four, Keisha's family moved from Australia to New Zealand, but her parents later separated. She attended Penrose High, Glen Innes, New Zealand, where she excelled in athletics, including rugby and track. Keisha, who lists math, English and Maori as her favorite subjects, also likes netball, reading and Kapa Haka (Maori cultural song and dance). She also frequently competed in and won speech competitions at school.
"I want to be a science teacher. My friends asked me why, but I'm intrigued by it and I'm quite good at science at school." Keisha Castle-Hughes (on whether she wants to be an actor when she's older).
Originally an Australian citizen, she became a New Zealand citizen in 2001 and lost her Australian citizenship under the now-repealed S17 of the Australian Citizenship Act. In October 2006, 16-year-old Keisha surprisingly revealed that she is pregnant with her boyfriend of three years, 19-year-old Bradley Hull. The baby is expected in spring 2007.
The Nativity Story
"Definitely not what I expected it to be. All I ever saw were famous people getting what they wanted when they wanted it and I was shocked at the fact that I actually had to work." Keisha Castle-Hughes (when she was asked if acting what how she expected it to be).
Being completely new to acting and even never appearing at school plays, Keisha Castle-Hughes, whose idols are Julia Roberts and Johnny Depp, was totally “speechless” when she was selected among thousands of girls in her school to play the female lead for the 2002 movie Whale Rider. She was discovered by the casting director and the casting assistant who visited her primary school in Mt. Wellington, New Zealand, and by the same agent who discovered Anna Paquin, the second-youngest Oscar winner in history.
"I was just speechless, I didn't know what to say. About two hours later I was running around the hotel just screaming. I was so overwhelmed!" Keisha Castle-Hughes (recalling the moment she got the starring role for Whale Rider (2002)).
Whale Rider, director Niki Caro's adaptation of a 1987 book by New Zealand Māori author Witi Tame Ihimaera, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2002. Keisha portrayed the lead role of Paikea Apirana (Pai), a headstrong 11-year-old single ancestor of a patriarchal New Zealand tribe who bravely defied male tradition by becoming clan leader. Keisha, who has never starred in a movie before Whale Rider and confirmed that she did not even know how to swim before starring in the movie, managed to deliver a heartbreaking performance and eventually earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. And at age 13, she became the youngest female ever nominated Oscar’s Best Actress. She also received a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
"I think we're both strong willed and independent, and Pai has a great unique quality about her. She's an 11-year-old girl who's confident about who she is and knows exactly who she is. Not many 11-year-old girls are like that. She's a great role model for young girls. I think I'm like that too." Keisha Castle-Hughes (on her Whale Rider character).
Following her first success, Keisha went to star as Queen of Naboo in George Lucas' final Star Wars saga, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). She appeared briefly in the popular space fantasy, as she said: "I was on for 10 seconds and if you see me you're lucky."
Keisha will soon be seen playing Virgin Mary in director Catherine Hardwicke's upcoming film, The Nativity Story, alongside Oscar Isaac and Shohreh Aghdashloo. The film, which follows the life of the Virgin Mary and Joseph over the two-year period immediately prior to the birth of Jesus, is set for a December 2006 release.
"When I got the part, it didn't hit me at first. But on the plane over here, I was writing in my diary, and then it hit me: Ohhh! I'm playing Mary! The biggest thing, you never think that she was just 14 and carrying a child. She was just a girl, and then the next day, she's a woman and married, and the next she becomes like the mother of the world." Keisha Castle-Hughes (on playing Mary in the Nativity Story).
Keisha is currently in Australia filming her new film, Hey, Hey, It's Esther Blueburger, by first-time writer-director Cathy Randall. She will play Sunni, the best friend of a 13-year-old Jewish girl who attempts to navigate the pressures of family, school and her impending bat mitzvah (played by newcomer actress Danielle Catanzariti).
"I'd always wanted to act but it wasn't just that, it was because all the ladies wore pretty dresses." Keisha Castle-Hughes.
- Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Young Actress, Whale Rider, 2004
- Chicago Film Critics Association: Most Promising Performer, Whale Rider, 2004
- Online Film Critics Society : Best Breakthrough Performance, Whale Rider, 2004
- Young Artist Awards: Best Young Actress in an International Film, Whale Rider, 2004
- New Zealand Film and TV Awards: Best Actress, Whale Rider, 2003