Quvenzhane Wallis was five years old when her film career started after she "snuck" into an audition at her local library. Subterfuge was required because the makers of Beasts of the Southern Wild had issued a casting call for little girls of six and above.
Yet, director Benh Zeitlin was sufficiently impressed that Quvenzhane, pronounced Kwa-van-je-nay, beat 4,000 other hopefuls to the part and he changed the script to fit her forceful personality.
Of working with her, he said: "It was as if you sat a five-year-old down at a piano and she played Mozart. It was the way that she could take these scenes and internalise them and express them in such a fierce way, with such focus and emotion."
Nazie (Naysie), as she's known at home, is one of four children born to Venjie Sr. and Qulyndreia Wallis. She came into the world on August 28, 2003, in Houma, Louisiana, where the film is set.
In the story, the locals are struggling to cope after Hurricane Katrina blows through, making an area that didn't have a lot to start with an awful lot poorer.
At the centre of the devastation is Quvenzhane's character Hushpuppy, who is being raised alone by her father because her mother has gone missing.
So mesmerising was her performance that in 2013 she became the youngest person ever to win a best actress Oscar nomination.
The prodigy has also filmed a second role in Twelve Years A Slave
, starring Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Interviewers have been surprised by the poise of the little girl from Louisiana, who answers questions with an intelligence and composure beyond her years.
Asked why she was picked for Beasts of the Southern Wild
, Quvenzhane says: "They only have found me because the character who is Hushpuppy, she does what is right and she is fearless and that's what I did at the audition."